The Ultimate List of the Greatest Badasses in Film

Part 1

What is a badass?

What makes one a badass, or even badassss?

Is it attitude?

Is it fighting prowess?

Is it one’s capacity to survive against all odds?

Is it one’s ability to throw out a snappy one liner in the face of death?

What is badass? Perhaps it is a quality which lacks true apotheosis. Perhaps one can only approach ultimate badassitude, asymptotically. Perhaps only Chuck Norris knows for sure.

We here at Popcorn Junkies have been working tirelessly on these and many other questions. We have a weekly column dedicated to these things. We have explored the 25 Most BADASS Flicks, ever. We have pondered, compiled, scored, rated, ranked, and pondered some more about badassery and its qualifications. We learned that Billy Gunn is a badass in only the loosest of terms. We learned that badassiquaciousness knows no distinctions of race, or gender, or creed.

And we learned a little bit about ourselves, and more about love.

These things were promptly forgotten.

We now present to you the Ultimate List of the Greatest Badasses in Film.

#60. Jim Stark (Rebel Without a Cause)


Why is he on the list?
The mysterious Jim Stark played by notorious bad boy James Dean himself is one of those silent ones with issues. One look at his face and you just know he wants to start something. He’s the poster boy for misspent youth of young Americans everywhere. But mainly he’s on the list because he’s broodingly handsome and makes the ladies whimper.

Why isn’t he higher?
Frankly, he’s just too damn cool to be bad.

-Li Ping Lin

#59. Butch Engstrom (The Wild Bunch)


Why is he on the list?
Two badass characters from the same badass movie! You can’t mention Pike
without mentioning his partner Butch, who is equally badass in The Wild Bunch. Ernest Borgnine is easily one of the most badass actors around and Butch is the best of the best.

Why isn’t he higher?
He’s just a sidekick, isn’t he?

-Noyes
(Kennedy Note: Not to spoil things, Noyes, but I think the list will disagree about Pike and Butch being equivalent badasses.)

#58 Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon)


Why is he on the list?
Sam Spade is the private detective with all the smooth talk, the cool strides, and the mean looks. Sporting badass lines like “the cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter,” Spade should be in a ’50s ad for cigarettes.

Why isn’t he higher?
Sammy here appears to be having too much fun in the midst of a crisis. A statue of a black bird is missing, dammit! And what does he do? He smokes a little, smirks a little. That just ain’t right.

-Li Ping Lin

# 57. Thunderleg (Drunken Master)


Why is he on the list?
His name is Thunderleg! (Or Thunder Foot depending on to whom you speak.) He is a nigh unbeatable assassin, with a strong moral code, and the ability to not only beat up Jackie Chan, but also his dad. Portrayed by Jang Lee Hwang, the king of the leg fighters, Thunderleg throws the greatest kicks in cinema. During the course of filming Drunken Master, Hwang injured the brow ridge of Jackie Chan to the point where he Chan nearly lost his eye. That is how dangerous the man is when he is pretending to fight. Hwang, himself, is a former taekwondo instructor for the Korean army. During that service (prior to his film career), a Vietnamese knife expert attempted to sneak attack him after Hwang declined his challenge to a fight. Jang Lee Hwang killed the man with one kick.

Why isn’t he higher?
Thunderleg is vulnerable to Kung Fu styles that imitate drunken slutty women.

-Kennedy

#56. Cruella de Ville (101 Dalmatians)


Why is she on the list?
She’s got the gall to kidnap a litter of adorable puppies, and for what? To skin them and make a coat for herself of course. That’s both sick and badass.

Why isn’t she higher?
Take away the Edward Scissorhands haircut and her freaky sense of fashion, and all you’ve got is a crazy old lady.

-Li Ping Lin

#55. Scar (The Lion King)


Why is he on the list?
Scar has all the evil qualities that every good villain has, but I give him even more credit because he shows them off with not only a lot of passion but also plenty of sarcasm. He can make you feel incredibly stupid just by giving you a look or making a small sound, but the thing is he’s also incredibly terrifying. Owning one of the greatest lines to be said before killing someone, whispering “Long live the king!” to Mufasa before tossing him down to be trampled Scar actually has made me afraid of Jeremy Irons for life.

Why isn’t he higher?
The problem with Scar is that he doesn’t always do his own dirty work. Sure you can be bad-ass all you want and have your cronies do the jobs that are beneath you, but you have to do more then sit on your patookus. Scar just relies way too much on the hyenas to torment the other lions and well his three top hyenas are all retards.

– Danny Cox

#54. Kikuchiyo (Seven Samurai)


Why is he on the list?
A peasant trying to prove himself amongst a super team of bad asses, Kikuchiyo ends up being a tour de force performance from one of the greatest actors to ever live; Toshiro Mifune. Taking about 16 swords into battle with him, what Kikuchiyo lacks in skill he makes up for with drive, wanting to cast off his humble beginnings to become an equal with these great warriors he stands beside. In a movie filled with terrific and memorable characters, Mifune’s performance stands out as perhaps the most superb because he’s the easiest one to connect with, as each us would strive to live up to the standards of the samurai just as he tries to do here. In the end, it is his spirit that is the most noble out of his compatriots, earning the respect of all around him as well as the audience taking in this epic masterpiece.

Why isn’t he higher?
While Mifune’s performances are some of the most bad ass in screen history (see # 20 on this list), Kikuchiyo is more buffoonish then I’ve ever seen the actor before. While his spirit and selflessness earns him his spot on this list, he’s not exactly a killing machine either, though he gets points for trying. He’s the most humane of the Seven Samurai, but he’s also the goofiest one too.

– Robtrain

#53. Robert Roy MacGregor (Rob Roy 1995)


Why is he on the list?
As the fella says, “real men wear kilts.” Rob Roy is a big, tough, kit-wearing motherf*cker, who comes out on the winning side of the greatest mismatched sword fight in recent memory. He is a noble man who, when not slicing Tim Roth in half, extolls the virtue of honor, the gift a man gives himself.

Why isn’t he higher?
Some dock him points for being all “lovey-dovey” with his wife. Others pay more attention to William Wallace, who seems to enjoy killing a lot more than our boy Rob.

-Kennedy

#52. Quint (Jaws)


Why is he on the list?
I really don’t know what can be said for the man who took on the killer shark that hasn’t already been said. Quint is one of the most badass fisherman around, no question and he’s got the battle scars to prove it. From the moment Quint walks onto the screen he oozes badassness.

Why isn’t he higher?
When it comes down to it he’s just a fisherman.

-Noyes

#51. Zod (Superman II)


Why is he on the list?
Looking for a megalomaniac supervillain, desperate for vengeance, and possessing an all encompassing God-complex? Look no further than Terrance Stamp’s General Zod. This Kryptonian warlord is bent on world domination and is desperate to destroy Superman, the last remaining offspring of his sworn enemy, Jor-El. Screaming his orders to everyone from Lex Luthor to the President of the United States, this dastardly villain takes what he wants by force, destroys national monuments and beats up rednecks by the score. A quarter of a century since his debut, Zod is still one of the best villains to ever come out of a Comic Book movie. The fight between the Man of Steel versus Zod and his minions is also still the best fight of its kind.

Why isn’t he higher?
Well as awesome as Terrance Stamp is in this role, he’s not exactly the coolest looking villain, and he’s so over the top that it’s tough to always take him seriously. Plus, there’s nothing really under the surface, Zod’s just simply out for power, and even gets bored after he’s taken over the entire planet. Lastly, Zod isn’t exactly the sharpest of tacks, as Superman pretty easily outsmarts him and sends him off to an endless abyss.

– Robtrain

#50. El Mariachi (El Mariachi, Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico)


Why is he on the list?
Number one, simply for the high body count. Plus, he had style: the guitar case full of weapons was inspired, and his jacket was pretty sweet. And, of course, he got to bang Salma Hayek, which could get him in the top 50 by itself.

Why isn’t he higher?
That whole “the big bad enemy is my brother” ending was pretty lame. Plus, he wasn’t even the coolest character in the movie – Navajas was a silent, walking badass.

-Steve Murray

#49. Batman (Batman Begins)


Why is he on the list?
Come on, he’s Batman. But the thing about this version of Batman that some others didn’t have brings me to why Christian Bale and Michael Keaton were the only good caped crusaders to hit the big screen. Bale made it a point to have different voices for Batman and his alter ego Bruce Wayne. That is extremely important. And how can you not be bad-ass when you are as intelligent, as rich, and kick as much ass as Batman does? Not to mention being able to finally witness the intense training he went through to seek his redemption which makes me look like even that much more of a wuss.

Why isn’t he higher?
Batman’s problem has always been that he didn’t use his pimp status to its full potential. The same holds true in Batman Begins as both Batman and Bruce Wayne had numerous chicks just dying to get into their err, utility belts. But what does Bats do? He focuses on one woman and will do anything to be with her even if it means risking his identity. And come on Katie Holmes??

– Danny Cox

48. Blade (Blade trilogy)


Why is he on the list?
Because Blade may be the baddest motherf*cker to hit movie screens in the past 20 years. The Daywalker has staked enough goth-y vampires to put a crimp in Cure album sales, yet there’s always some motherf*cker out there who wants to ice skate uphill.

Why he isn’t higher?
Because Wesley’s current direct-to-DVD career has maybe made some of my esteemed staff forget how bad ass Blade is.

— Michaelangelo

#47. Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)


Why is she on the list?
In my honest opinion she is one of the most bad-ass Disney villains of all time. She is an extremely powerful magician and also brings in the power of evil and darkness to make herself that much stronger. She doesn’t like to be flashy or flaunt her power with stupid little jokes and humor. Maleficent is straight forward and could strike you dead with her icy stare just as well as hit you with lightning. Oh, did I forget to mention that she was usually engulfed in green flames and turns into a gigantic dragon? Yeah, not only is she a frickin all-powerful magician, but she’s a giant mythological beast bad-ass!

Why isn’t she higher?
She just didn’t carry out her evil deeds enough. The biggest problem there is with her is that she wanted nothing more to get rid of Princess Aurora. She came up with the curse of death to befall Aurora so she would be out of her life forever. But what did this horrific spell do? It made Aurora fall asleep. That’s it. So no matter what, that at least gave our heroes a chance to break the spell. If Maleficent had simply used the powers of hell as she claims to have had, killing Aurora would not have bothered her and would have been much more effective.

– Danny Cox

46. Marv (Sin City)


Why is he on the list?
A mountain of a man, Mickey Rourke’s Marv is the #1 bad ass in a movie that co-stars Bruce Willis and Clive Owen. Marv’s a one man army, taking on all that Sin City can throw at him from hitmen to dirty cops, and taking each of them out with ease as he gets revenge for a woman he barely knows. Using everything from axes to guns to his own mitts, Marv carves up a trail of corpses all the way to Sin City’s elite. So much of the credit for Marv’s awesomeness lies on the shoulders of Mickey Rourke, in perhaps his best performance ever. He simply is Marv, as if he leapt off of Frank Miller’s pages and onto the big screen for all to see.

Why isn’t he higher?
Beats me. Marv could probably take most of the other pansies on this list and rip them in two, loving the sound of their screams the whole time. Marv is pretty one dimensional, as it’s hard to say that there’s really anything under the surface with Marv except contemplating more killings. The guy is like this big, deadly puppy that will love you if you’re good to him, and will rip your lips off if you get on his bad side.

– Robtrain

45. Detective John Shaft (Shaft)


Why is he on the list?
He’s John Shaft! How could he not be on the list? That would be like listing all the Greek gods and leaving out Zeus and Apollo. He’s f*cking Shaft! He is the cat who won’t cop out, when there’s danger all about. Thirty years later, and a significant portion of the population is still trying to be Shaft. When a man watches this movie, his first instinct is to buy a black leather trenchcoat (and possibly a beige cashmere turtleneck) and start calling every one around him “baby”.

Why isn’t he higher?
Whitey. The man is always trying to keep Shaft down. Perhaps the insipid pseudo-remake caused my colleagues to not vote for this bad mother – shut your mouth – just talkin’ ’bout Shaft – then we can dig it – icon.

-Kennedy

#44. Captain Jack Sparrow (PotC flicks)


Why is he on the list?
What would the pirates movies be without Captain Jack Sparrow? Just a more action-packed Peter Pan that’s what. Jack Sparrow has completely redefined the pirate character into a silly, meandering type who’s more your friend than enemy. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t got some badass skills; Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann would most certainly be floating somewhere in the bottom of the ocean without their frivolous friend.

Why isn’t he higher?
The mascara is a bit much.

-Li Ping Lin

43. Johnny Knoxville (Jackass 1 and 2)


Why is he on the list?
Few characters match Knoxville’s recklessness, fearlessness, or utter disregard for the safety of himself or others, and those that do have the benefit of being fictional. Johnny Knoxville cannot be resurrected by a writer; when he cheats death, he really cheats death. And he does these things with a psychotic smile on his face. I’d be more afraid of hanging out with Johnny Knoxville than going to prison.

Why isn’t he higher?
Unlike those fictional folk, he doesn’t get to kill people, we don’t see him get the girl, and he’d probably be rubbish against a horde of ninjas.

– Kennedy

#42. Tom Stall (A History of Violence)


Why is he on the list?
Tom Stall is the mild-mannered family man who can leash out and kill you if you get on his nerves. He’s a got a history of dark secrets and his moves are quick and lethal.

Why isn’t he higher?
He’s forgettable, like Lola from Run, Lola, Run.

-Li Ping Lin

#41. Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street series)


Why is he on the list?
The ultimate killing machine. Tormenting you through the power of your dreams. Everyone has to sleep at some time or another no matter how hard you may try and fight it. You’re going to go to sleep. Freddy knew how to take your moments of peace and serenity and turn them into his own world so he could not only torture you, but control you in the real world. He had a sadistic style that spared no-one and cared for nothing. Men, women, children, animals it didn’t matter. As soon as your eyes closed, you were his. That’s it you can out run other slasher killers but Freddy? No matter where you are, so is he.

Why isn’t he higher?
As time went on Freddy decided to be more of a comedian then a brutal killer and that just took all his luster away. He went from notorious and perverse to doing stand-up with a killing thrown in every now and then. It actually made him more annoying then scary and he became a lot less believable as someone who could scare and was just a step above Carrot Top.

– Danny

Part 2 comes out tomorrow! Stay tuned!