Crafting lists such as these are always an arduous task because there are so many badasses to choose from. They’ve each earned their legacy by kicking copious amount of butt and maintaining composure throughout. And that’s what ultimately defines a badass. You can’t simply beat the snot out of countless baddies and expect to earn the title. No sir, you have to maintain a certain level of poise as you blast, neck snap and Spartan kick your way to your mission objective. And hey, if you want to rock a pair of shades and earn some brownie points through aesthetics, that’s cool too.
Badasses earn their title by defying the odds and delivering a one-liner or two while doing so, because what better way to cap off a highlight reel of dismantling bad guys than finishing off with something like, “Hey, terrorist. Terrorise this.” You see, badasses don’t care if they’re outmatched or outgunned. They just demolish the opposition like it’s another day in the office and ride off into the sunset. We have an extensive catalogue of movies which celebrate these characters, and it’s always bound to be a good time, even if the movie is a hot mess.
So with that in mind, let us take a look at the 15 most badass action heroes. If you feel I’ve slighted your favourite badass, please drop a comment below and argue your case. There are so many great potential selections that it felt like a crime leaving certain characters out… Sorry, King Leonidas.
15 Jules Winnfield - Pulp Fiction
Jules Winnfield is a cold and ruthless hit man who is so likeable you don’t really care who he ices. Whether he’s reciting Bible verses before capping someone or uttering an expletive-filled rant on filthy animals, you can’t help but root for him. The man is well-versed and dresses like a professional. He just oozes charisma. The guy’s wallet has “Bad Mother [Expletive]” etched on it just to remind everyone he is not to be messed with. While he’s not an action hero per se, it would have been a crying shame not to add him on this list. He is one badass dude.
14 Lone Wolf McQuade - Lone Wolf McQuade
Let me paint you a picture: you’re beaten to a bloody pulp and ditched in the backseat of a vehicle. Your foe casually walks up to you and rips off the badge of honour you wear so proudly on your chest. He delivers a final one-liner along the lines of, “Something to remember you by” and coldly turns his back before dumping the vehicle in a deep hole. You then hear the sound of condensed gravel piling atop what will surely be your resting place. The ordinary man would remain in the vehicle and eventually succumb to lack of oxygen. But Lone Wolf McQuade? He cracks open a beer, pours it all over himself, takes a swig, and powers the vehicle through the gravel, emerging from the surface like a bat out of hell. After casually disposing of some baddies, he looks at his companion and says, “Grab me a beer, kid.”
13 John McClane - Die Hard
“Yippee ki-yay, mother[expletive].” John McClane is an eternal action hero who quite simply doesn’t give a hoot who he’s up against. He’s still going to crack one-liners, laugh in your face and then hop on a fighter jet like it’s just another day at the office. His kill count is through the roof and he’ll do it in creative ways, too. Whether it’s rolling down a set of stairs and breaking your neck, shooting you in the face, exploding your knee caps before diving head first through a glass pane, crushing your body through a conveyor belt or even stabbing you in the eye with an icicle, he’s going to kill you one way or another.
12 John Rambo - First Blood
Rambo wields a knife, machine gun and extensive survivalist skills in order to decimate all in his path. And it’s awesome. This is the type of man who crafts an explosive arrow while in the midst of battle and single-handedly destroys a Soviet helicopter with, that’s right, one shot. I’m not sure why you would ever willingly face off against this specimen. He once fired an arrow into his opponent’s thigh in order to allow him to hop forward helplessly before firing a final arrow through his face and letting him fall over a landmine. He also ripped a dude’s throat clean off with his bare hands. So yeah, enough said.
11 Beatrix Kiddo - Kill Bill
Why would you even think of taking on Beatrix Kiddo? This is a woman who sliced about hundred henchmen into pieces for simply standing in her way. She even used a special technique to explode someone’s heart upon impact. Oh, that’s not enough for you? Well, when confronted by Elle Driver, a one-eyed villain who also wields a samurai sword, Kiddo doesn’t even bother killing her and opts to yank out her only functioning eye, rendering her blind and miserable. I mean, holy crap. Why bother complaining about your problems when you can rectify them with the help of a gigantic samurai sword?
10 Sarah Connor - Terminator 2
Sarah Connor may have started out as an innocuous bystander, but that quickly changed by the time Terminator 2: Judgement Day came around. She rocks a pair of shades and smokes cigarettes while battling a virtually unstoppable robot. And there’s no romantic sub-plot to distract from the fact that Connor is a ruthless, robot-killing machine. She wants to be treated like every other action hero, and she succeeds in every conceivable manner. What’s letting some creep security guard lick your face if it means freeing yourself with a paper clip concealed in your mouth so you can later beat him senseless with a broken broomstick?
9 Indiana Jones - Indiana Jones
Indiana Jones isn’t your conventional badass. Mostly because he likes to carry a whip around as his weapon of choice and he works as an archeologist and historian. But he’s so badass that that doesn’t even matter. He’s the type of man who will whip you in the face, steal your girl and ride off into the sunset leaving nothing behind him but a mob of cultists, Nazis and general baddies. Let’s be honest, not even a tank could stop Indiana Jones. He just hopped on that bad boy’s barrel and enjoyed the ride. That’s just how Indiana Jones rolls.
8 Neo - The Matrix
Do you remember how difficult it was to fight Agent Smith in The Matrix? Tough, right? Well, how about fighting a hundred of them at once? I know, I know, what a preposterous idea. Well, not for Neo. This dude rocks a black trench coat and shades and manhandles Agent Smiths like he’s having a field day. He eventually gets bored and decides to fly away, still sporting his shades as the Agent Smiths are condensed in a dog pile. He can also stop bullets at will and block a sword with his bare hand. If he delivered hilarious one-liners, he’d have been the whole package.
7 The Terminator - The Terminator
The Terminator starts out as villain before becoming a hero the second time around. It doesn’t really matter, though, because he’s a badass regardless of where his allegiances lie. The guy rocks a pump-action shotgun in one hand while leaving his other free to drive a motorcycle. Yeah, that’s right, this guy drives a motorcycle with one hand and fires a shotgun with the other. What have you done lately? And not only that, Terminator wears some classic shades just so you know he’s not messing around. In the newest film he’s seen diving headfirst into a live helicopter rotor because why the hell not? “Hasta la vista, baby.”
6 Han Solo - Star Wars
Han Solo may not be the strongest specimen in the galaxy, but he’s got a mouth on him and infinite amounts of charisma. He’s relentless in his not-so-subtle pursuit of Princess Leia and he knows how to handle a laser-shooting gun. He slyly popped a cap in a bounty hunter threatening to bring him to Jabba the Hut and then walked away like it was no big deal. Han Solo just doesn’t give a flying TIE fighter. Oh, and how does Solo respond when Leia finally professes her love to him? He coolly replies, “I know” before being frozen in carbonite. Badass.
5 James Bond - Every James Bond Film Ever
I mean, he’s James Bond. The guy carries a gun like he’s posing in a professional photo shoot and still racks up a ridiculous kill count. Let’s take a quick look at his resume: he hopped aboard a moving train while driving on the tracks with a car, shot his mistress point blank for not calling off a terrorist attack, Spartan kicked a teetering vehicle with one of his foes inside off a cliff, fought a villain while skydiving, and the list goes on and on. He also woos every female in sight while taking care of some villain scum. What a badass.
4 Harry Callahan - Dirty Harry
Harry Callahan, or "Dirty Harry," has a simple policy he lives by: piss him off and he’s going to shoot you. A prime example of this is when he’s enjoying a hot dog at a local deli when all of the sudden an alarm system goes off across the street. Harry slowly walks outside, pulls out his .44 magnum, still chewing his meal, and blasts away at the robbers facing him. He then utters this famous quote at one of the wounded crooks reaching for his weapon: “I know what you're thinking. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow you head clean off, you've gotta ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”
3 Mad Max Rockatansky - Mad Max
Murdering his wife and infant son was one colossal mistake, bad guys. Mad Max Rockatansky has the type of name that should immediately alert you of his utter badassery. But if you’re foolish enough to take him on, he’s more than ready to hop into his limited edition 1973 Ford XB Falcon GT351 and obliterate you while wielding a double-barrel shotgun in one hand. And if he’s in the midst of a car chase, well, you better expect him to drift around a pile of wreckage at the last possible moment and have his pursuers crash to their deaths. That’s just how he rolls.
2 Ellen Ripley - Alien
This chick means business. Ellen Ripley is the type of woman who wields a gigantic flame thrower and faces an eight-foot tall alien head on. Everyone else on the Nostromo is busy being eaten alive and yelling for their lives while Ripley is saving Jonesy the Cat and staring straight into the terrifying face of danger. And when she finally escapes via space pod the alien sneaks on and threatens her life once again. But this is Ripley. She boot stomps that alien straight in the face until it gets sucked into space. Then, in the sequel, she overtakes a group of terrified space marines and tells them what’s up as she battles dozens of aliens and defeats the Queen while donning a massive mechanical suit.
1 Bryan Mills - Taken
To accurately depict the legendary status of Bryan Mills, we’re going to ignore the weaker sequels and focus on what he accomplished in the first film, Taken. According to Complex.com, Mills’ confirmed kill count of Albanian baddies is 31. Of those 31 victims, he disposed of his enemies via varying methods: slamming a car door on a bad guy’s head, stabbings, shootings, electrocution and neck snapping, among other methods. Yes, Mills’ growing list of murders is so extensive it’s difficult to list them all. Other fun facts pertaining to Mills’ badassery: three throat chops, five pistol whips, 11 face punches, one villain hit in the throat with a serving tray and even one slap. This guy does not mess around.