Badassery: it'san elusive quality many strive for but few actually attain. For those of us who are forever weak, uncoordinated, and cowardly, we can but gaze upon the silver screen, see Hollywood’s muscle-bound men of action and wonder “what if?” From the meat-grinder supermen of 80’s action movies to the stoic, determined heroes of Asian cinema, cinema is littered with men and women putting their badassery on stark display, both awing and shaming audience members. Here are but six examples!
Arnold Schwarzenegger Throws a Pipe Through a Guy’s Chest, “Commando”
After bulldozing his way through a small Central American army, the only thing standing between John Matrix and his kidnapped daughter is his mustachioed, chain mail-adorned adversary, Bennett. After an extended knife fight, Bennett gets the upper hand by grabbing the Uzi he previously claimed he didn’t need. With mere seconds to spare before being shot, Matrix rips a ten foot steam pipe out of the wall and hurls it Olympic Javelin-style into Bennett’s chest before delivering the classic kiss-off “Let off some steam, Bennett."
John McClain’s Exploding Rooftop Jump, "Die Hard"
Bruce Willis’s seminal action film is filled with wall-to-wall acts of badassness, but the coup de grace has to be his leap off the C-4 laden rooftop of Nakatomi Plaza while evading an FBI sharpshooter and tethered only by a rickety fire hose reel. After that, dangling off the side of the building trying to kick in a window with the glass-shredded soles of his feet is just the cherry on top.
The Hallway, "
In Park Chan-wook’s mind-bending, stomach-churning “Oldboy”, Oh Dae-su must seek out a mysterious adversary who imprisoned him for fifteen years before abruptly and unceremoniously releasing him. During the course of his investigation, he finds himself in a narrow hallway with a mob of stick-wielding thugs blocking the exit. Armed with only a hammer, Oh Dae-su plows his way through, pressing deeper within their ranks, never going down, even when stabbed in the back. Legend has it that the actor, Min-Sik Choi, was accidentally stabbed for real during this scene.
Indy Vs. the Swordsman, "Raiders of the Lost Ark"
Chasing Nazi agents through a crowded Egyptian market, Indiana Jones finds himself face-to-face with a scimitar-twirling swordsman. As his foe finishes a dazzling display of swordsmanship, Indy, looking equal parts exhausted and exasperated, casually pulls out his revolver and guns him down. Some may snicker at the well-known on-set tale of Harrison Ford getting a severe bout of diarrhea and needing to finish a planned lengthy fight scene quickly, lest he crap his pants, but what could be more badass than telling an in-his-prime Steven Spielberg that you had to cut the scene short so you could go number two?
Snake Pulls the ‘ol Switcheroo, "Escape From New York"
Snake Plissken does not enjoy being jerked around, so when the post-apocalyptic outlaw is snatched up by the government, implanted with an explosive charge, dropped into the ruinous prison of New York City and given a 24-hour deadline to rescue the president and his top-secret, nuclear war-averting cassette tape, he chafes a bit. Oh, sure, he’ll bring your president back, and your tape, but once the charges have been disarmed, he’ll switch that tape out for some old-timey swing music. Cue Snake walking off into the night as a nuclear holocaust commences.
Pole Slide, "Police Story"
This entire list could have easily been an inventory of Jackie Chan stunts. The amount of times the international movie star has put his life on the line to get a shot just right is astounding. He’s suffered broken bones, lacerations and has on a number of occasions very nearly gotten himself killed, including this scene from “Police Story”. As the criminal he is pursuing flees through the ground floor of a large shopping center, Jackie, from several floors up, decides the best course of action is to leap onto a steel pole, slide down as the lighting collapses and shatters around him, crash through a glass canopy, and slam into the ground below. Breaking two vertebrae and nearly becoming paralyzed on this stunt, Jackie Chan proves that no fictional character can measure up to his real-life heroics. So behold: Jackie Chan, cinema’s greatest badass!