Retro Badass #3: The Top 25 Badasses of All Time

I just read through Entertainment Weekly's lackluster "greatest characters of the last twenty years" and was less than impressed.  I mean, not only were the choices ridiculous (i.e. Amanda from Melrose Place), but the concept itself is just horrible. They actually have Gollum from The Lord of the Rings alongside Cher from Clueless.

Far be it from me to knock lists - I love lists. Even though they're just a worthless collection of opinions, they are often fun to read.... and even more fun to compile. So, as lame and witless as EW's list was, it did inspire me to come up with one of my own: The Top 25 Badasses of All Time.

I realize some of these are pretty obscure, but they stand out in my head as big time badasses nonetheless. I am sure I missed some obvious ones. So, not only will I not be offended if you dog cuss me for leaving a good one out, I would be extremely appreciative of any contributions you could add. (No, pretty boy James Bond did not make the cut - this was not an oversight). So, here they are....(drum roll please)

  1. Blondie (Clint Eastwood - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly)
  2. Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt - Inglorious Basterds) 
  3. Philo Beddoe (Clint Eastwood - Every Which Way but Loose)
  4. Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood - Dirty Harry)
  5. Jack Carter (Michael Caine - Get Carter)
  6. Captain Kirk (William Shatner - Star Trek)
  7. The Bride (Uma Thurman - Kill Bill Vol. 1)
  8. Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson - Death Wish)
  9. John Shaft (Richard Roundtree - Shaft)
  10. Lee (Bruce Lee - Enter the Dragon)
  11. Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson - Pulp Fiction)
  12. Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White - Black Dynamite)
  13. Marv (Mickey Rourke - Sin City)
  14. Coffy (Pam Grier - Coffy) 
  15. Bud White (Russell Crowe - L.A. Confidential)
  16. Gator McClusky (Burt Reynolds - White Lightning)
  17. Youngblood Priest (Ron O'Neal - Superfly)
  18. Dae-su Oh (Choi Min-Sik - Oldboy)
  19. Heinz Klett (Raymond Harmsdorf - Bloody Friday)
  20. King Leonidas (Gerard Butler - 300)
  21. Tony Montana (Al Pacino - Scarface)
  22. Ash (Bruce Campbell - Evil Dead II)
  23. Black Belt Jones (Jim Kelly - Black Belt Jones)
  24. Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin - Billy Jack)
  25. Cesare Cardinali (Alex Cord - Stiletto)


  1. Awesome bad ass list. Some of my personal choices to throw in would be Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell - Escape From New York); Mad Max (Mel Gibson); and Blade (Wesley Snipes) to name a few.

  2. I would have added Earl Macklin (Robert Duvall) from the film "The Outfit" (1973). However, it's a hard film to find. It's not on DVD & is only shown on TCM sporadically.

  3. I would have addes HIT GIRL from "Kick Ass" !

  4. I meant to say "added".Daj

  5. How can you forget Charles Bronson or Kojack

  6. No Lee Marivn? From The Killers? Point Blank? The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance? The Wild One? The Big Heat? GROSS OVERSIGHT IMHSHO.


  7. Looks like I was so livid I couldn't even spell correctly. Lee MARVIN and IMNSHO.

  8. Yeah, Lee Marvin should be on there somewhere. Gross oversighte indeed.

  9. I'm sorry, but if this list really is OF ALL TIME you've got to have James Cagney as Arthur "Cody" Jarrett from White Heat!

    On the basis of one scene alone, where he's eating a chicken leg and walking past the rear of a car. A guy who tried to kill him is locked inside the trunk. Seeming to remember this, he stops, walks back and knocks on the trunk lid.

    "How ya doin' in there, Parker?"
    "It's stuffy in here! I need some air!"
    "Oh. Stuffy, huh? I'll give ya a little air!"
    Then he pulls out a pistol and empties it into the trunk, through the lid. When all the bullets are gone, he shrugs, tosses the empty gun away, and walks off...still eating the chicken leg.

    Now that's badass.

  10. AnonymousJune 26, 2010

    Lee Marvin had so many great roles, but for bad-assery, I would list his role as "Chino" from The Wild One

  11. Totaltoyz - Damn. That is badass.

  12. You forgot Chuck Norris, oh and Mrs. Garret,after all she helped raise Willis.

  13. To the Editor:

    I also am struck by how contemporary this list is. What about William Holden et al in The Wild Bunch? Or Yul Brenner et al in The Magnificent Seven? Steve McQueen isn't mentioned for Bullit, The Great Escape, Hell is for Heroes, or Sand Pebbles? And even for contemporary bad asses, isn't Clint's character William Penny in Unforgiven a bigger bad ass than that idiot in Every Which Way But Loose?

    Or how about Kaiser Soze? Or Kevin Spacey's "John Doe" in Seven? Travis Bickel in Taxi Driver?

    The characters played by both Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin in Emperor of the North were also mean.

    Henry Fonda's character from Once Upon a Time in the West--he was bad.

    Maybe your list could have one actor for a body of work ie Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson (Death Wish, Magnificent Seven, Mr. Majestic, Great Escape) Steve McQueen, etc. Nevertheless, I am delighted, though, to see that you remembered Richard Roundtree and Black Belt Jones.

    And I readily concur with Totaltoyz about Jimmy Cagney. If you haven't seen White Heat, you gotta see it--Top o' the world, ma! There's also Jimmy Cagney's character Tom Powers in Public Enemy, if only for the scene when Cagney pushes the grapefruit right in Mae Clark's face!

  14. To the Editor--

    Sorry, I forgot about Lawrence Tierney, not only for his roles in Dillinger and Reservoir Dogs--but mainly for just BEING Lawrence Tierney.........

  15. And you know, "badass" doesn't necessarily translate into "bad guy". Check out Cagney's performance in One, Two, Three. He dominated everyone in that movie--Soviet officials, German radicals, the CEO of Coca-Cola! Never backed down, never blinked! That's badass!

  16. Bill - I'm not seeing the same list as you are I guess. This isn't "contemporary" at all. There's a few from the past ten years, but even they are marinated in the greatness of the 70s (i.e. Tarantino's Bride and Aldo Raine, and the blaxsploitation sendup Black Dynamite). You don't see Stone Cold Steve Austin or The Rock on here, right?

    I mean, the retroverse doesn't have a monopoly on badasses - I'd be remiss not to include Ash or Jules Winnfield. And any way you look at it, Bud White is 100% solid badass - contemorary or not.

  17. Leon from "The Professional", Ben Kingsley from "Sexy Beast"

  18. princess leia organa definitely needs to be on this list

  19. Excellent List! Bryan Mills (Liam Nesson) in Taken has to go on it!