The most badass “old guys” in Hollywood are a rough, tough, and supremely accomplished bunch, and they seem to possess a certain gravity. There’s a staying power to their roles that’s lacking in the present film environment. Tell me, who’s the most recent sweepingly iconic figure in a movie? A franchise? Harry Potter? Frodo Baggins?
And while there are different varieties of badass-ness, all the men in this list possess the quality in spades.
For example, James Bond is a very different type of badass than, say, William Wallace in Braveheart. Both, however, are bad, bad men who possess an ineffable sort of cool. Another example, Dirty Harry Callahan is a markedly different badass from Rocky Balboa.
And what constitutes old? For our purposes, we’ll go with the AARP’s definition: 50 and older. This seems appropriate as “old” in Hollywood is what…18? It seems closer to the time that a man begins to sprout facial hair than the time when he develops gray hair…
And what exactly is a badass? Dictionary.com has “badass” listed as both an adjective and a noun.
Here’s the entry:
adjective, Also, badassed
- (of a person) difficult to deal with; mean-tempered; touchy.
- distinctively tough or powerful; so exceptional as to be intimidating.
3. a mean-tempered troublemaker.
The term first found its way into popular parlance in the 1950s.
For our purposes, the definition from the Urban Dictionary may be more appropriate: “An ultra-cool mother-f***er.”
So, who are most ultra-cool m.f.-ers over 50 in Hollywood? Grab a glass of prune juice and keep reading to find out.
10. Sean Connery
Now pushing 85, Sean Connery is the most senior badass on our list. The Scotsman, of course, established his reputation as an action star and bona-fide badass with his work in the James Bond series in the 1960s. Connery appeared in a total of seven of the essential spy films.
It’s a strange paradox: James Bond is one of the most tremendously badass film characters of all time. However, not all the men who have portrayed 007 are themselves badasses. Pierce Brosnan, anyone?
Sir Sean, however, doesn’t have this problem. In addition to appearing in Bond classics such as From Russia with Love and Goldfinger, Connery appeared in the action classic, The Rock more than 30 years after appearing in the first Bond film.
Beyond just being a badass, Connery has also been voted “The Greatest Living Scot” and “Scotland’s Greatest Living National Treasure,” so he’s got that going for him.
9. Clint Eastwood
Do you feel lucky, punk?
Grizzled, gruff, seasoned veteran of both Westerns and the traditional action sphere, Clint Eastwood has both played badasses and remains thoroughly badass into old age (his bizarre speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention exempted). Eastwood is putting out some of the best films of his career (as a director) as he enters into old age: very bad indeed.
Eastwood has starred in a such classics ask The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, Hang ‘Em High, Dirty Harry, and The Outlaw Josey Wales. Interestingly, his most commercially successful role came in the action comedy Every Which Way but Loose.
Recently, the former Dirty Harry Callahan has been spending more time behind the lens than in front of it. Eastwood directed the sincerely badass Letters from Iwo Jima.
Eastwood was also awarded the French Legion of Honor. Receiving an award created by one of the biggest badasses in history, Napoleon Bonaparte: pretty badass.
8. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Only in America could Arnold Schwarzenegger become an elected official of any significance: The Terminator star served as the Governor of California from 2003 to 2011 and is reportedly lobbying for the overturning of the “native born” constitutional hurdle so he can run for President.
If being born poor in Austria, winning Mr. Olympia seven times and establishing one’s self as a successful actor and politician in the United States isn’t badass, I don’t know what is. Further, Schwarzenegger began bodybuilding at 15, so he’s been a genuine hardo for more than 40 years.
Schwarzenegger’s film roles are among the most badass on this list. Consider his parts in: Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja, The Terminator, Predator, and of course, Twins with Danny DeVito (just kidding with that last one). He’s reportedly reprising his role as The Terminator in 2015.
It’s hard to believe that the Governator is pushing 70 and still oozing the singular variety of alpha male-ity that defines the men on this list.
7. Sylvester Stallone
Can you believe Sly Stallone is nearly 70? It seems like just yesterday he was triumphantly jogging up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art…
The Rocky star was actually inducted into the boxing Hall of Fame. Think about that: Stallone’s performances as Rocky Balboa were so essential to the history of the sport that he, a fictional boxer, was granted membership in a group of the greatest actual boxers of all time.
Beyond lacing up his gloves as the hard-hitting debt collector in six Rocky films, Stallone also starred as asskicking Vietnam veteran John Rambo in $125 million-grossing First Blood, which he also co-wrote. Demolition Man and Judge Dredd, are other arrows in his quiver of notable action roles.
Stallone isn’t slowing down in old age either. He recently wrote, directed, produced and acted in The Expendables and The Expendables 2, which makes him a badass old guy who’s still engaged in badassery.
6. Chuck Norris
Former Walker, Texas Ranger, Chuck Norris is 74 years old. The Ryan, Oklahoma native has seen his badass quotient decline slightly as he seems eternally willing to pitch exercise the Total Gym in silly infomercials. Still, Norris’ ability to genuinely kick ass is significantly higher than nearly everyone on this list. A competitive karate fighter, Norris won Black Belt Magazine’s coveted Fighter of the Year after winning karate’s triple crown.
Norris established himself in Bruce Lee’s Way of the Dragon, and further solidified his reputation with roles in films such as Delta Force, and Code of Silence. In 1993, however, Norris began the part most people know him for, Texas Ranger Cordell Walker in Walker, Texas Ranger.
One of Norris’ most badass moments on film is in Lone Wolf McQuade. Norris, as J.J. McQuade is buried in his pickup, but comes to after being left for dead. Like an alcoholic Popeye, he pours a can of beer over himself to regain consciousness and drives the vehicle out of the earth.
5. Bruce Willis
Bruce Willis’ films have grossed more than $2.5 billion in the United States. Willis got his start Off Broadway but solidified his badass reputation playing John McClane in the Die Hard series of films. He’s now nearly 60 years old and has taken to starring in softer roles, such as his part in Moonrise Kingdom.
Willis as John McClane jumping off the roof of the Nakatomi Plaza as it explodes is one of the iconic action shots of the 1990s. Indeed, Willis was such a successful action star in the early ’90s that he essentially played a parody of himself in 1994’s Pulp Fiction.
In the 2000s, Walter Bruce Willis played yet another badass role in Sin City. The bald-headed Willis has something of the everyman in him, as well as a superhuman level of toughness and grit. It’s a great combination that has endeared him to audiences and entertained for more than 20 years.
4. Denzel Washington
60-year-old Denzel Washington is a little different than most of the badasses on this list: He’s a dramatic actor first and an action star second.
That’s not to say he hasn’t played some seriously badass roles in his time, however. Consider his performance as Detective Alonzo Harris in 2001’s Training Day along Ethan Hawke. What’s more badass than a crooked cop driving a sweet black Monte Carlo?
The Academy Award-winning actor also has action roles in The Book of Eli, Man on Fire, John Q and Out of Time under his belt. He also starred in Spike Lee’s bank-robbery thriller, Inside Man in 2006.
Whether it’s a serious role or a bullet-spraying action performance, Washington can do it all. And in a certain sense, his most badass performance came as attorney Joe Miller in Philadelphia where he defended Tom Hanks’ character Andrew Beckett in a case against his former employer who had fired him unjustly.
3. Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford is badass old guy royalty. At 72, Ford can look back on a career that includes two incredibly iconic badass roles in two iconic series: Han Solo in the Star Wars series and Indiana Jones in that franchise of films.
Ford’s films have reportedly grossed more than $6 billion worldwide, which is no small achievement for a man whose relationship with director George Lucas initially consisted of him installing cabinets in the director’s home. The meeting led to Ford’s role in American Graffiti and later, Star Wars.
Ford reprised his role as one of the great movie badasses of all time in 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which proved both he and the character are viable heroes across the decades.
Ford has also accomplished some decidedly badass feats in his personal life in recent years. Using his Bell 407 helicopter, the licensed pilot has rescued several stranded and injured hikers near his Jackson Hole, Wyoming ranch.
2. Liam Neeson
62-year-old Liam Neeson is a unique inclusion in this list. That’s because Neeson didn’t rise to prominence as a badass figure until he was already virtually an “old guy” in 2008’s blockbuster Taken.
Prior to starring in Taken, Neeson was best known for his roles in Excalibur, The Bounty, The Mission, Schindler’s List, and Les Miserables. Great performances, sure, but not exactly badass.
Neeson’s performance as Brian Mills in Taken essentially created a genre of kidnap recovery films. The trail of cold-blooded destruction Mills leaves in his wake in pursuit of his kidnapped daughter is a wonder to behold, and his monologue about his “particular set of skills” has become an instant inclusion in the volume of great action movie quotations.
The native of Northern Ireland also bolstered his badass old guy chops in the 2012 thriller The Grey, in which Neeson plays an oil-man stranded in Alaska following a plane crash.
1. Mel Gibson
Although he’s become something of a silly figure and a lighting rod in recent years, it’s worth remembering that everyone’s favorite anti-Semite, Mel Gibson, turned in some very badass performances.
Most notably, perhaps: Mad Max (a masterpiece of post-apocalyptic slobberknocking) and Braveheart (a masterpiece of medieval battles and the revenge genre).
The 59-year-old Gibson is an accomplished filmmaker as well, owning his own production studio. Indeed, he directed and produced Braveheart, making him a tremendous coordinator of badass activity.
The scene in Braveheart where Gibson rides slowly into town on horseback feigning surrender only to pull his sword from behind his head and kill a dozen soldiers is some truly exceptional asskicking.
And of course his performance as Martin Riggs in the Lethal Weapon franchise further contributes to Gibson’s badass status.
However, more than seeming like a badass old guy in recent years, Gibson has presented himself as a crabby old man with some troubling antiquated beliefs, which casts a pall over some great roles.