Badass to the Bone


MTV announced its top ten list of ultimate movie badasses earlier in the week, headed by Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry. It wasn’t as much of an abomination as most such selections go, though quite what Diablo Cody – one of the panel – knows about the topic of badasses, it’s hard to say. However, the list still had some notable omissions, and in that spirit, I offer the following alternative top ten. I humbly submit, this selection would collectively leave the original in the dust, if there were ever some kind of Badass Survivor Series.

I suppose it does perhaps depend on how you define the credentials. Wiktionary says a badass is “A person whose extreme attitudes and behavior are admirable,” but I think there’s more to it than that. I’d be hard-pushed to actually write anything down: however, much like pornography, it’s usually pretty clear when you see it. However, after coming up with ten, Chris and I kept right on going, with a little help from Robert too. Through dinner, on a restaurant napkin, back home and on into the next morning with everyone in the house lobbing suggestions to me like hand-grenades. It became abundantly clear that one list of candidates was not going to be enough.

The MTV list is weakened considerably by an almost complete reliance on Hollywood films, with Mad Mel the token non-American included. Being badass does not require you speak English. Or even speak at all. Indeed the less you say, the better. Which is why Quentin Tarantino will never, ever qualify, and Samuel L. Jackson is also not to be found here. Just as you don’t need to speak to be a badass, you don’t need to spell aluminium without an “i”. Hence, in addition to the American top ten list (which, dammit, we expanded to a top 20, simply because we can), we also include section for British and Asian candidates, as well as a list combining all those from the rest of the world.

For this purpose, every man, movie and character on the MTV list is excluded from consideration. Even though Eastwood could well have made this list, for The Man With No Name, and I wouldn’t argue with John McClane either. That restriction was not applied to the women, as a list without Ripley on top of it would be unthinkable. A more fully-detailed article on the ladies, incidentally, will be appearing separately, over on later in the month. And I’ve limited actors to one nomination. Otherwise, the entire top ten could be filled with the works of Rutger Hauer, who was badass in just about every movie he made for a decade after Blade Runner: The Hitcher; Wanted Dead or Alive; Blind Fury; Split Second; Wedlock; Salute of the Jugger; Flesh + Blood; Ladyhawke; even Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I rest my case.

  1. Ash in Army of Darkness [Bruce Campbell]
  2. Riddick in Pitch Black [Vin Diesel]
  3. Snake Plissken in Escape from New York [Kurt Russell
  4. Luke in Cool Hand Luke [Paul Newman]
  5. Simon Phoenix in Demolition Man [Wesley Snipes]
  6. Tony Montana in Scarface [Al Pacino]
  7. Creasy in Man on Fire [Denzel Washington]
  8. J.J. McQuade in Lone Wolf McQuade [Chuck Norris]
  9. John Shaft in Shaft [Richard Roundtree]
  10. Sgt. Harman in Full Metal Jacket [R. Lee Ermey]
  11. Gabriel in The Prophecy [Christopher Walken]
  12. Seth Gecko in From Dusk Till Dawn [George Clooney]
  13. Nada in They Live [Roddy Piper]
  14. The Lieutenant in Bad Lieutenant [Harvey Keitel]
  15. The Kurgan in Highlander [Clancy Brown]
  16. Tyler Durden in Fight Club [Brad Pitt]
  17. Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings [Viggo Mortensen]
  18. Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum [Matt Damon]
  19. Micky Knox in Natural-Born Killers [Woody Harrelson]
  20. Johnny-23 in Con Air [Danny Trejo]

British badasses

  1. Jack Carter in Get Carter [Michael Caine]
  2. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs [Sir Anthony Hopkins]
  3. Count Dracula in Dracula [Christopher Lee]
  4. Don Logan in Sexy Beast [Ben Kingsley]
  5. Cleric Preston in Equilibrium [Christian Bale]
  6. Big Tony in Snatch [Vinnie Jones]
  7. James Bond in Dr. No [Sean Connery]
  8. Alex in A Clockwork Orange [Malcolm McDowell]
  9. Smith in Shoot ‘Em Up [Clive Owen]
  10. Stansfield in Leon [Gary Oldman]

Honourary mentions: Ray Winstone (Beowulf); Bill Nighy (Underworld); Jason Statham (The Transporter); Gerard Butler (300).

Eastern badasses

  1. Mark in A Better Tomorrow 1+2 [Chow Yun-Fat]
  2. Kai San in The Ebola Syndrome [Anthony Wong]
  3. Kakihara in Ichii the Killer [Tadanobu Asano]
  4. Ricky in The Story of Ricky [Siu-Wong Fan]
  5. Dae-su Oh in Oldboy [Min-sik Choi]
  6. Lee in Enter the Dragon [Bruce Lee]
  7. Azuma in Violent Cop [Takeshi Kitano]
  8. Sky in Hero [Donnie Yen]
  9. Prisoner KSC2-303 in Versus [Tak Sakaguchi]
  10. DCP Hari Om Patnaik in Aan: Men at Work [Akshay Kumar]

Foreign-born badasses

  1. Roy Batty in Blade Runner [Rutger Hauer]
  2. Don Lope de Aguirre in Aguirre, Wrath of God [Klaus Kinski]
  3. Leon in Leon [Jean Reno]
  4. Dutch in Predator [Arnold Schwarzenegger]
  5. Jef Costello in Le Samouraï [Alain Delon]
  6. Maximus in Gladiator [Russell Crowe]
  7. Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men [Javier Bardem]
  8. Wolverine in X-Men [Hugh Jackman]
  9. Jean Rasczak in Starship Troopers [Michael Ironside]
  10. Joseph in Sheitan [Vincent Cassel]

Female badasses

  1. Ripley in Aliens [Sigourney Weaver]
  2. Varla in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! [Tura Satana]
  3. Alice in Resident Evil: Apocalypse [Milla Jovovich]
  4. The Bride in Kill Bill [Uma Thurmann]
  5. Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger [Cheng Pei-Pei]
  6. Mallory in Bloody Mallory [Olivia Bonamy]
  7. Ilsa Koch in Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS [Dyanne Thorne]
  8. Inspector Ng in Yes, Madam [Michelle Yeoh]
  9. Ruger in LA Bounty [Sybil Danning]
  10. Coffy in Coffy [Pam Grier]

Honorary mentions: Franka Potente (Run Lola Run); Aya Ueto (Azumi); Anne Parillaud (Nikita); Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix); Leslie Andrews (Sick Girl); Brigitte Lahaie (Fascination); Michelle Rodriguez (Girlfight); Zoe Tamerlis (Ms.45); Christina Lindberg (Thriller: A Cruel Picture); Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct); Katherine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps).