A scar tells you a lot about a movie character. It’s a quick and easy way to divulge information about the character’s past or their personality. There are always going to be exceptions or inversions to this rule, but scars usually even tell us if the character is going to be good or bad, depending on the attractiveness of the scar. If a scar disfigures the face completely, they are almost certainly going to be evil, or at least read as evil initially. Good guy scars are used strategically to say something about why that person is who they are. It is usually a nice looking scar, big enough to see but not making the character ugly, per se. With evil guy scars, anything goes, the uglier the better, the more deformed, the more evil. Next time you watch a movie and see a character with scars, write down your first impressions. There are really only two options for that character. Either their personality can be a direct contrast to the physical nature of the scars, or the scars are their true nature, despite what they seem at first. So basically you don’t know anything. You know, you probably shouldn’t write down your observations either. People might look at you weird. I apologize for suggesting that.
We’ve been programmed to see scars as imperfections. The worse the imperfection, the more imperfect a character is or was, you follow me? Most characters explain their scars right away, using them as a backstory device. This is an effective way for the screenwriters to give away some of the character’s history without them just opening up about it for no reason. In some cases, however, the scar is simply a marker of strength, survival, danger, you name it. If they don’t talk about it, its meaning will be obvious enough for you to grasp without needing any additional information. Since the beginning of film, scars have been essential to character development. In silent films, scars were the easiest way to signify an evil person. Sure, things have become a bit more complicated than that today, but these tropes are still used. One thing is for sure: scars look badass. Some are more badass than others and that’s why this list exists. Here are the 15 most badass scars in the movies.
15. Marv – Sin City
Marv (Mickey Rourke) likes to fight. He does it a lot because he’s good at it. His scars come from the constant abuse he takes in these fights, most of which he seems to welcome. Rarely, does he fight one-on-one. I don’t think there are enough individuals in the world that could give him the kind of challenge he seeks out, so he takes on multiple people at once. Marv is a good guy, but he’s a self-deprecating good buy, so his scars represent his self-punishment. He’s meant to be physically repulsive so that his caring, good guy personality shines through. He’s a brawler and has been a brawler for a long time, so the audience needs to see that this is nothing new for him. In a way, he’s been collecting scars as reminders of what he is and what he hates.
14. Quint – Jaws
Quint is the crazy old shark hunter from Amity that is hired to take out the rampaging shark in Jaws. Drunk as skunks, the men on the boat compare their scars like all true manly men like to do in the movies. They show each other scars from fights, scars from arm wrestling competitions, scars from moray eels (as pictured above), scars from bull sharks, thresher sharks and scars from removed tattoos. The reason Quint makes the list because he’s such a badass that he wears his scars better than Hooper. I think Hooper actually has Quint beat in the scar-off, but Quint just looks like he’s got scars he’s not even showing. Too many scars.
13. Tony Montana – Scarface
If your name is Scarface, you’d expect to be included on this list of scars. I won’t disappoint him. Tony Montana has a large scar down the left side of his face from when he was a kid, at least, that’s what he says. The immigration officer who is questioning him asks if he got it doing special things to a woman, which he laughs off. In a great exchange, Montana says the classic line “you should see the other kid; you can’t recognize him.” The scar became an identifier for him and made him look more intimidating in the eyes of his enemies. It also stands as a reminder of the life he left behind, another reason for his coming to America, though it doesn’t quite all go according to plan.
12. Inigo Montoya – The Princess Bride
Inigo Montoya has two scars, one on either cheek, given to him by the man with six fingers. The scars are used as a talking point for Inigo to give his backstory. After the six-fingered man had killed his father, an 11-year old Inigo challenged the man to a duel. Young and inexperienced, Inigo was disarmed quickly and given two slashes as a reminder of the six-fingered man, but he was allowed to live because he had some promise with a sword. Inigo then dedicated his entire life to avenging his father. The scars are quite indicative of where he sits on the good/evil scale. Originally Inigo appears to be a bad guy, but, as astute viewers might have identified, the pleasing look of those scars were a major indication that he might change sides, and he did.
11. Scar – The Lion King
Scar is evil, this is apparent from the very first moment you see him. The large scar over his left eye is discolored and evil shaped, you don’t have to be a Disney scientist to know that he’s got something weird going on there. In The Lion King novel series (yep, that’s a thing), Scar’s backstory is given. His name used to be “Taka” and he’s always been a little baby. Angry about Mufasa being named King and crying about his dad reneging on his promise to go hunting with him, Taka goes off hunting buffalo by himself. Obviously things don’t go well. Taka gets attacked, gets horned and gets knocked out. Taka’s wound scarred over and he was known as Scar from that day on. Even though Mufasa saves him, Scar never forgave Mufasa and hence the events of The Lion King.
10. Kakihara – Ichi the Killer
Kakihara has some major scars on his face. Basically, he has a grid of scars on his face. The severe Glasgow smile scars that never healed properly are held together with piercings, which he can take off when he wants to catch a dude’s fist in his mouth. Yeah, he does that. Those are the major scars. It’s not known how he got them, but their symmetry hints that they were something ritualistic given to him by his boss, or maybe even something the sicko gave to himself. The masochistic nature of the film makes the scars emblematic of the Yakuza lifestyle and Kakihara’s own weird nature.
9. Ernst Stavro Blofeld/Dr. Evil – You Only Live Twice/Austin Powers
Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s appearance changes frequently in the James Bond franchise, but the most memorable look is when he has a gigantic scar down the right side of his face. Originally we have no idea how he got the scar, likely in a fencing duel or something crazy like that, but in Spectre, we see Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) get the scar from an exploding watch thrown at him. In the Austin Powers films, it’s also unclear how Dr. Evil got his scar, but it’s possible that it too was a fencing duel scar, like Blofeld. However, because Dr. Evil is a ridiculous parody of so many different villains (Blofeld most of all), it’s just as likely that he did it himself. The only thing we do know is that Dr. Evil didn’t have that scar when he was a baby.
8. Mason Verger – Hannibal
Mason Verger (Gary Oldman) is the guy who got it the worst from Hannibal Lecter. His face is completely disfigured, just a giant scar really. Early on, Hannibal drugged Verger and made him cut off pieces of his own face and eat them, gross. He also had him hang himself, leaving him all mangled and damaged. Still, Verger is a sicko and is actually more of a villain than Hannibal is. He’s a psycho who tortures children and drinks martinis with children tears in them, is there anything more evil? Verger is pushed into a pig pen that was designed to kill Hannibal, so he finally meets his end, eaten by pigs. By looking at his scars, however, we know he’s villainous through to his core.
7. Lieutenant Aldo Raine – Inglourious Basterds
The massive scar across Lieutenant Aldo Raine’s (Brad Pitt) neck is probably the result of a lynching; we’re not quite sure. It is certainly a reference to the character Tuco in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, who escaped hanging, a protagonist type of marking. While it’s a good guy scar, it tells us that Raine is a dangerous man and has questionable methods, something he may have been punished for in the past. I guess we also know that he scalps his victims, which is pretty questionable, so there is some truth to his scar. The scar itself is not visibly distressing, so you know he’s got a good heart. Still, it’s big enough that it is a major piece of who he is, perhaps even a major piece as to why he is who he is.
6. The Toxic Avenger – The Toxic Avenger
This one subverts the traditional scar norms. After janitor, Melvin Ferd, falls into a vat of toxic waste, he is horribly burned and deformed. Rather than damaging his muscles and bones, though, as you would expect, the toxic waste actually makes Ferd stronger, a lot grosser to look at, but much stronger. Weird how that works out. Nevertheless, The Toxic Avenger was born because of this. Now the ugly hero makes it his mission to fight crime in his little town, taking revenge on the people who tormented him as well. Not surprisingly, the people in the town (except for one gal) are afraid of him, even pegging him as the bad guy. But he’s not bad, it’s just his skin that’s bad.
5. Staff Sergeant Barnes – Platoon
Staff Sergeant Bob Barnes (Tom Berenger) is the bad guy in Platoon, and that is obvious right from jump street when you see that grizzled mug. Almost the entire right side of Barnes’ face is scarred, zigzagging all over. The scar is definitely indicative of his crazy self, his past and a hint about what kind of man he is going to be in the movie. You can directly contract the quality of scars with Chris (Charlie Sheen), who is given a little good guy scar in his fight with Barnes. Obviously Barnes’s scar tells everyone he’s crazy and not to be messed with. The fact that Barnes lived after getting a scar that bad means he’s seen things and lived through things that most people haven’t. He’s a scary dude.
4. Edward – Edward Scissorhands
Small little nicks and scars are all over Edward Scissorhands’s (Johnny Depp) face. They are not grotesque or large enough to make him appear menacing, but they do tell us that he is a little dim, struggling to learn from his mistakes. Really, that’s all we need to know about him. He’s simple, kind, clumsy; his scars are essential to the plot of Edward Scissorhands. If you were paying attention, you could predict almost exactly what would happen in the movie based on those scar indicators. If you’re watching the film on VHS, you might even miss his scars, they blend into his skin so well. They aren’t awfully discolored like villain scars. After Peg uses her miracle Avon cream on Edward’s, his scars look, well, they look exactly the same. That was a terrible advertisement for Avon in hindsight.
3. The Joker – The Dark Knight
Theories as to how the Joker got his Glasgow smile scars are all over the place, including this link. The most convincing might be that he was a war veteran who received the scars in an explosion, or maybe just in war. Regardless, the device of using scars as a talking point is used to perfection by Christopher Nolan. A few times in The Dark Knight, the Joker tells a story about how he got his scars. Each time the story is different, so instead of getting a backstory of the Joker, you learn more about his nature, his lies and his mental stability. The scars are accentuated by the Joker’s makeup, meaning he’s proud of them and wants everyone to see him. I’m not saying how he got them, but he definitely represents them as if they were self inflicted.
2. Freddy Krueger – A Nightmare on Elm Street
Freddy Krueger is a burned and disfigured nightmare demon. His scars are obviously the scars of a villain; he’s horrifying to look at. Barely any skin left on his face, Freddy’s backstory is important to why he is who he is. A child murderer—some movies peg him as a pedophile as well—Krueger was followed and killed by a mob of angry parents in a boiler room that he used as his lair. When Krueger comes back in the dreams, his skin is destroyed and burned, but his clothes are actually in pretty good shape. Freddy often uses his damaged skin as a tool of fear, sometimes tearing at it and showing it off. He knows it looks gross, and he likes it that way.
1. Harry Potter – Harry Potter Franchise
Harry Potter’s scar is a good scar. Perfectly clean and nice looking, shaped like a pleasant lightning bolt, it’s a nice one. J.K. Rowling admitted that she chose the scar because it looked cool, and boy does it ever. The scar is Harry’s identifier. Everywhere he goes, he’s known by it. Early on, he has that huge mop of hair covering it, which makes him anonymous, but as soon as he lifts that goofy hair, everyone gasps. That has to be Harry Potter, who else could have such a beautiful scar? Harry’s not ashamed of his scar like many are, but that’s because he knows it’s a good guy scar. You go Harry.