THE 10 MANLIEST MOVIE CHARACTERS OF ALL TIME
This is it. I’m doing it. Don’t try and stop me.
While I sit here typing with Man of Steel in the background, I have to think through all the guys that didn’t make this list. Surely a character like Superman would have, right? His strength, speed, and abilities are immeasurable and he fits to a point because, hey, he’s in a movie, so he counts right?
Click here to see what puts these movie guys on the list and who made it.
So Superman is awesome and he’s unbeatable, we can accept that. And he is a male so that counts right? So why wouldn’t he be on the list? The rigorous process that we went through to bring you this post that will be viewed by roughly a third of the readers that regularly visit the site took some time- but we did.
Here are the qualifications, aside from being male of course.
1. He must be human. Reason numero uno Superman can’t make it. He’s got the best of everything and even though he appears human. Predator didn’t make it either due to this list, despite (at least seeming male) and being awesome. We’re reserving manly not just for the male gender but humans especially. Otherwise this list would be filled with non-human awesomeness and leave no room for the “little guy.” This rules the above mentioned, as well as characters like Optimus Prime, Godzilla, or Raphael of Ninja Turtles.
2. Their most prominent medium must be film. Since we said it was “The 10 Manliest Movie Characters” we need to hold true to that. Sure, Superman and Thor are in movies but they’re adapted from comics that were pretty popular way before they ever came to film. So while their character can be adapted from something, film must have been the focal point. Characters excluded are those such as the above, other comic book or TV show characters that are specifically known for their original adaptions before being brought to film.
3. They must exude the kind of cool and awesomeness every guy wants some part in. Sure, there are plenty of characters out there that don’t fit the accepted role of masculine and coolness, but these guys created the standard for those guys to play off of. A character like Sherlock Holmes is so great because he seems so off-the-wall and weird to the point some people think him ineffective when bam- he solves the case ingeniously. But we’re not going for pure intelligence or any specific trait but masculinity as a whole.
And we’re not talking about being a jerk, but getting the job done against all odds, being themselves in a way that intimidates you as well as makes you want to be them in some way. Role models, in a sense, for all guys; jocks, nerds, and everything in between can see the appeal to these guys. So Frodo is great and he performed amazingly with the one ring, but he ain’t on this list.
4. They must be a MOVIE CHARACTER, not the actor themselves. Much of the debate that went on for this list had much to do with, duh, who would make it. I was told by my associates (That’s what I call them) that it was inhumane to leave Bruce Lee out of this list. Now being an avid fan of the Dragon himself, none of his characters, aside from Kato the manservant of the show The Green Hornet can be named by the casual fan while a guy like say, Han Solo, is globally recognizable.
So while not all the characters on the list have to be as huge as Solo is, they do have to be a character and not the actor. When you watch Bruce Lee onscreen, we’re seeing Lee’s personality bursting through the screen because he’s so cool, not because Tang Lung is a greatly written character. What movie is Tang from you might ask? Exactly.
It’s Way of the Dragon.
And now the list.
10. Tyler Durden
MOVIE: Fight Club (1999)
MANLIEST MOMENT: Tyler’s brutal beatdown at the hands of Lou, the mob-ish bar owner where Fight Club is being held. It’s one thing to beat up another man; it’s another level of manliness to allow yourself to get beat up and laugh about it…then gross your aggressor out to the point where he just gives you what you want.
MAN QUOTE: “The things you own end up owning you.”
Imagine doing everything you’ve ever wanted to do without hesitation, and you do it exactly as it needs to be done. Imagine looking better, feeling better, and when you do something, you’re praised as intelligent and just plain cool. That’s Tyler Durden. You might be saying that he can’t count because he’s a figment of the Narrator’s imagination, which is true. He is. But Tyler is also shown to be the personality that takes over while the Narrator just watches. Not to mention, this is what people knew the Narrator as and he’s the one that didn’t have an identity.
While not everyone would agree with Tyler’s overall scheme of taking everyone’s debt back to zero, nobody can deny Durden is what all guys want to be on some level. From making bombs out of “simple, household items” to the more hilariously chaotic missions of Project Mayhem, there was hardly a scene that went by that didn’t make male viewers smile with the urge to go out and create some mayhem of their own.
And ultimately, it was to give modern man, bogged down by advertisements and consumerism that’s helped to chip away at masculinity, a purpose. Everybody wants to feel free from constraints but Tyler was the guy to just make it happen.
9. Alan “Dutch” Schaefer
MOVIE: Predator (1987)
MANLIEST MOMENT: After discovering the Predator’s weakness of sight, Dutch, alone in a foreign jungle, covers himself in mud, sets the most primitive (but effective booby traps) and finally becomes the hunter.
MAN QUOTE: “If it bleeds we can kill it.”
Arnold had to be somewhere on the list right? He should be able to take up this entire list but let’s be fair to the other guys. Dutch was pretty awesome before he came across the invisible alien threat; out in the jungle on a black ops mission to take down (in the most explosive fashion) a cartel. It wasn’t until all was said and done did we see Dutch and his small team of men kick it into high gear.
But only one remained.
We’re not sure if it was Ah-nuld, the luck of the draw, all skill, or probably a combination, but Dutch is the only one to survive the Predator’s rite of passage into alien manliness. Originally Predator was to be on this list himself, not Dutch. At least before the “only humans” rule. Predator goes to another planet to pick off the baddest of the bad. Futuristic weapons, scary, and formidable even with nothing but his own alien fists, he seemed like a good fit. But Dutch was also in unfamiliar territory- geographically, situationally, and psychologically. Eventually, after all of his men are dead, Dutch takes the Predator head on and wins.
But not before getting covered in mud, making a torch in a tree and screaming at the top of his lungs to draw in his enemy. Manliness, thy his name is DUTCH.
8. Maximus Decimus Meridius
MOVIE: Gladiator (2000)
MANLIEST MOMENT: Fighting the formerly unbeatable gladiator Tigris and staving off the attacks of vicious tigers…only to win and allow Tigris to live after the Emperor tells Maximus to kill him in front of a filled Colosseum.
MAN QUOTE: “I only have one life to take. Then it is done.”
We all have an idea of what it’s like to feel like pretty good about ourselves, only to have somebody that’s tough to get along with make things unnecessarily difficult for you. Maximus lived this out in ultimate fashion. The favored Roman General of the Emperor, Maximus was betrayed by the Emperor’s whiny son Commodus for fear Maximus would be next to rule instead of himself. And from this, Maximus has his title taken away, his wife and kid murdered, his home burned to the ground, and he’s sentenced to be executed.
But as we know, that doesn’t work out.
From this point on is Maximus’ beastly fight to greatness. Not that he wants it. He just wants revenge on the Emperor. But most anyone you could look up isn’t trying to be a hero, they’re just doing what’s natural to them. Maximus is thought to be dead, yet becomes a slave. Maximus is skilled enough to go from slave to gladiator. And from that, he becomes a hero of Rome even without the people knowing his story. And why all the trouble? All because some spoiled brat was jealous of who Maximus was and what he had. So it’s even more fitting that Maximus would still rise up to meet Commodus again, no matter what his circumstances.
7. Lucas Jackson
MOVIE: Cool Hand Luke (1967)
MANLIEST MOMENT: When Luke boxes, no matter what the odds, he refuses to go down. Great scene that sums up the film and the character.
MAN QUOTE: [Talking to God] Is that your answer, old man? Well, I guess you’re a real hard case too.”
While Maximus’ story was played out in epic fashion, Luke shows us the struggle of a more contemporary man that, taking away all the guns, action, women, etc., you’ve only got yourself. And what do you do with yourself? In Luke’s case, no matter what the man did to beat him down, he refused to stay down. Luke lived that scenario all guys think they would rule in- prison.
From accepting whatever challenge was thrown his way to refusing to sit down and take it from “the bawss,” Luke couldn’t be kept down. As mentioned, while the other guys on this list have done extraordinary things through seemingly impossible situations, Luke is the only character whose goal is to keep from just being beaten down further then he already is. That may not sound like much compared to being in a gladiator or black ops alien killer but this is also the guy to give you hope that no matter how much of a loser you are, you don’t have to have the loser mentality. At one point, Luke’s mother dies offscreen, while Luke is in prison. To keep him from escaping so he doesn’t attend it, he gets put in the box, aka the hole.
His mom died? Make his life worse! But Luke never breaks. Through ditch diggings, beatings, and just about everything else the authorities can do to him, Luke does what he wants with what he’s got, giving a big finger to the Man.
6. Leonidas I
MOVIE: 300 (2007)
MANLIEST MOMENT: THIS! IS! SPARTA!
MAN QUOTE: “The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant, that few stood against many, and before this battle was over, even a god-king can bleed.”
From digging ditches to fighting an unwinnable fight, it’s not about winning or losing, but doing every single thing you can with whatever is available to you. Leonidas is forbid to fight the impending army…so why not take 300 of his best men for a nice stroll, conveniently towards the opposing army, right in the most strategic location Leonidas’ people have. It also helps in manliness to look up to a “god king” and make a joke at his army’s expense, ie., bending Xerxes’ ego over his knee and spanking it.
Leonidas also shows he has what it takes to be on the THE LIST by placing his priorities in such a way, he’s got a sense of masculinity in him that displays priorities. His woman and his people, but his own life last. And while anybody should value their life, to put others before yourself is a pretty tough thing to do. Some guys on this list only have to worry about themselves while others fight for themselves and others. Leonidas, as far as 300 goes, is living in a world where kings are easily bought so they can bathe in gold somewhere that nobody can bother them. Leonidas took the few men available to him and stood on the frontlines with them, and never seemed to let up until the end.
He didnt’ kill Xerxes, but his prediction was right, courtesy of his own actions. Even after that nasty little hunchback Ephialtes screwed them over.
5. Paul Kersey
MOVIE: The Death Wish film series (1974-1994)
MANLIEST MOMENT: In Death Wish III, all hell breaks loose when Kersey arms himself with a gun almost as big as he is and gets his friend to carry the belt of ammunition as he runs around the city, mowing down all the scum. At the time, it could be taken into consideration that it all started with his wife and daughter, but ended up being about the protection of the entire city.
MAN QUOTE: “It’s like killing roaches – you have to kill ’em all, otherwise what’s the use?”
You’ve read about it on the news, been told about it by a friend, or maybe you were in the situation yourself. But crime is everywhere and ain’t nobody escaping it. But there are crimes that people walk away from, then there are the crimes where the intention of the suspect is out to do as much damage to someone else as they can, for no other reason than they just want to. This is where Paul Kersey comes in and blows those fools away.
At the time of it’s original release, Death Wish was hated by critics and praised as being vigilante worship. Maybe it is, but can you blame people? You hear about a couple getting beaten to death outside of a movie theater for no reason, someone’s house being invaded and the occupants needlessly abused and you just want to do something. And every guy’s fantasy at some point, involves killing because there was no other way out.
After Kersey’s wife and daughter are murdered, Kersey goes from an architect to Punisher-like street cleaner, living the fantasy many guys have when they hear of people that won’t be talked to, so they must be dealt with. Kersey was chosen over Dirty Harry Callahan (Of the Dirty Harry series, of course), who’s motives are very similar, due to Kersey’s status as a “regular guy” as opposed to a cop that already has access to most information and weapons he would need, whereas Kersey is a self-made man.
Fun Fact: Actor Charles Bronson was offered to play either Tuco or Angel Eyes of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) but turned down both.
4. Max Rockatansky
MOVIE: The Mad Max films (1979-2015)
MANLIEST MOMENT: After handcuffing his last living enemy to “Johnny’s” own wrecked car, Max throws him a hacksaw to give him the opportunity to escape. Presumably, he doesn’t make it, as evidenced by the explosion over the hillside as Max presses onward in his car…and into film legend. From the original Mad Max.
MAN QUOTE: “My world is reduced to a single instinct: Survive.”
Max’s wife and kid are killed, the same as Kersey’s, but Max’s life takes a turn for the insane in the sequels that followed. It’s almost as though we’re getting the story through an unreliable narrator who sees his environment as even crazier than it actually is due to everyone’s greed for gasoline and water. But Max is still Max, quiet and simple. He’s the definition of speaking softly and carrying a big stick. Or rather, shotgun.
Though he may appear selfish at times, Max always ends up helping the innocents that are being endlessly tortured by a more vicious gang with no remorse. He’s something of a ghost, haunting them for what the original gang did to his own family. From the original film to 2015’s requel (I’m so clever), Max’s character is always one of resolution. He shows up to scenarios where there is no hope. He doesn’t give the people hope by building them up, but by helping them out to the point where they can’t help but feel their lives are going to get better. If he’d never shown up, life would have gone on. But since he makes his appearance, everyone is bettered for it.
Plus, he does so with an awesome car and a cool dog.
3. The Man with No Name
MOVIE: The Dollars Trilogy (1964-1966)
MANLIEST MOMENT: The realization that this guy isn’t just good at hunting his fellow man (!) but that he’s pretty frikkin’ smart too. Specifically when it’s revealed that all the gold everyone is killing each other for isn’t buried in the grave he told everyone it’s in, but the unmarked grave NEXT to it. A crowning moment in an epic trilogy.
MAN QUOTE: “You see, in this world, there’s two kinds of people my friend; those with loaded guns…and those that dig. You dig.“
Wearing the exact same poncho in all three movies without having it replaced or cleaned (True story), the Man with No Name actually has several- Joe, Manco, Blondie…but in the next town over, what’s he called? On the other side of the country, what do they know him by?
Wherever he goes, he leaves a slight impression and the mystery that No Name is surrounded by is one reason he’s so high on the list. Where has this guy been? Where is going? How did he learn to shoot like that and what has his life been like? With a cigarillo and perfect aim, there’s not much about him a guy can’t nod his head in approval toward. He’s in the fantasy of what the wild west is imagined to be and playing it out as cool as we wish we were. Bounty hunting, hanging out in the saloon, then moving onto the next town.
Despite being billed as “The Good” in the third film, Blondie actually has the highest body count of the three title characters. But it’s just a reminder that being “good” doesn’t mean being a nice guy. Blondie sums up what it is to be a solitary man by sticking to your guns, minding your own business, and moving on. It’s what many guys think they are, but few actually are.
2. Indiana Jones
MOVIE: The Indiana Jones Trilogy (1981-1989)
MANLIEST MOMENT: In The Temple of Doom, Jones is being closed in on by a murderous cult and cuts a rope bridge right down the middle- while they’re all on it.
MAN QUOTE: “It belongs in a museum!”
You didn’t think I’d leave him out, did you? A childhood hero of mine and everyone else, Indy is something of a legend among film and men themselves. He’s the balance between action and intellect, brains and brawn. Sure, he gets punched in the face and it’s hilarious and painful at the same time- but he’s gets back up and crushes Nazi skulls. That’s another thing. He actually gets to kill Nazis. Nobody wanted to fight in World War II but everybody wants to kill a Nazi. And if it’s on the way to finding a famous mythological artifact, you’ll be loved even more.
You may have noticed that in the movies Indy is featured in, there is no fourth film. I’m confused about this because people tell me there’s a fourth, but I have yet to see it. I saw a movie with Shia Labeouf swinging on vines with monkeys to catch up to a car chase and UFOs flying into outer space but I’ve never seen a fourth Indiana Jones film. The Indy I know globetrots around the world, making time for the ladies and the artifacts and never forgets that as exciting as his adventures are, having it studied and admired for the viewing public (in a museum) is what he’s after.
You’re not going come across many guys on a masculine list whose goal is knowledge but that’s one way Indy tops them all. Except for one. And it shouldn’t be surprising that Indy was modeled after the character they ended up casting as his dad in The Last Crusade. Speaking of…
The number one spot goes to….
1. James Bond
MOVIE: The James Bond series (1960- Present day)
MANLIEST MOMENT: Gah, which movie? Just about every single one of them has something that feels definitely manly. How about when he saved the world from a mad man for the seventeenth time in that one movie with the superterrorists. Yeah, that one.
MAN QUOTE: “Do you mind if my friend sits this one out? She’s just dead.”
Dunuh duhnuuuh da nuh nuuuh….That’s the Bond theme but in this case maybe it should be replaced with “dur” since you could have seen this coming a mile away. With more than twenty three films to his name, this slick gentleman shows the rest of these guys it still pays to be classy [Tip trilbys here]. Just because you have an actual license to kill doesn’t mean you can’t be cool about it. Savages!
Every few years, a different actor takes the role and the character is updated a bit. So even though the way Bond goes about his business might not be as true to life as whatever an actual spy is like, realism isn’t the point so much as it is getting the job done right and looking good while doing it. Everyone on this list is under the roof in the house of Bond as far as film is concerned. He’s the guy to aspire to be like without ever being able to actually be him. Though he’s had a few slip-ups here and there (Die Another Day anyone?) it never takes too long for the character to get back up on his feet.
When something is compared to be cool, James Bond comes to mind. If he’s skiing, at a fancy tuxedo party (They’re so elite) or shooting his 1,500th henchman with one of his one-of-a-kind gadgets, all spies in the film world have no choice but to bow down to the guy that set the standard and continually raises the bar.