Hollywoods Biggest Tough Guys


So my buddies and I started talking about the toughest guys in movies. So I wanted to throw it out there and see what other people had to say. Here's a couple.

Not in any particular order:

Dirty Harry
Kyle Reese (The Terminator)
Darth Vader


"Money won is twice as sweet as money earned."

Can we try with real bullets now?
Indiana Jones is definitely one of the toughest guys in the movies....and he uses a whip!!!

Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight?

Mr T or Maximus in Gladiator or Bruce Lee in any of his films


  • Walker Lee Marvin, Point Blank (1967)
    After being double-crossed and left for dead, Walker becomes an unstoppable single-minded machine, bent on revenge, but under the cool guise of simply collecting the money he is due: ninety-three grand. To the Organization his old 'friend' used that money to buy his way into, Walker is an annoying fly to be swatted. As he begins working his way up the chain, leaving bodies in his wake, they realize too late what they're dealing with. If the plot sounds familiar though you haven't seen the flick, it's because Point Blank was re-worked as Payback (1999) starring Mel Gibson. But that film, while solid, has too much tongue in its cheek compared to the original John Boorman movie, where Marvin's Walker is the modern hard-boiled badass archetype: quiet, relentless and coming at ya'.

    great mantra:
    "I just want my money."
    best assessment:
    "You're a very bad man, Walker!"
    - Brewster (Carroll O'Connor)

  • John J. MacReedy Spencer Tracy, Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
    A one-handed stranger gets off the train in a dusty speck of a California town. He's greeteed with hostility and suspicion almost instantly, and as he starts asking questions about a former resident the heat on him gets more and more intense. But this stranger, MacReedy, is armed with something more powerful than a gun: the resolve to uncover the truth. Without violence he stands up to the intimidation, until what really happened is brought to light, shaming the town that turned its back. MacReedy is one heck of a badass, though his toughness doesn't come in bursts of action but steely determination.

    great lines:
    - "You're not only wrong, you're wrong at the top of your voice."
    - "Well I know this much: the rule of law has left here, and the gorillas have taken over."
    - "I thought the tradition of the Old West was hospitality."

  • Michael, a.k.a. "Fresh" Sean Nelson, Fresh (1994 - Boaz Yakin)
    A young boy growing up on the rough streets of Chicago, Fresh is used by the minor local drug kingpin Esteban (Giancarlo Esposito) as one of his underage mules, running small and important weight from place to place since as a minor he is less punishable by the legal system. But Fresh is valued beyond his age requirement, as he is smart, cool and level-headed, something Esteban can truly appreciate in an urban landscape full of cowboys looking to shoot up the joint for hardly any reason at all. Fresh is emotionally detached from the violence and despair around him, doing the job because he's good at it and it provides money for his broken family. Fresh's estranged father (Samuel L. Jackson) is a street-hustling chess player, and eventually Fresh takes his knowledge of that game of strategy and applies it to his situation in the ghetto, seeing many moves ahead to form a plan that will get him out of the life and hopefully save his sister too. Along the way he will eliminate all the pawns and other pieces he needs, expertly playing all sides against the middle, always without emotion but with a clear pragmatism that is above any preconceptions of morality. In the end, Fresh is the biggest badass in town, all with hardly saying a word. Brilliantly acted and constructed film, terribly underrated, and Sean Nelson is flat-out magnificent.

    advice taken to heart:
    "Your queen is just a pawn with some fancy moves, nothing more."
    "You're playing each piece like losing it hurts. This ain't checkers. You want my king, you got to come get my king. All these other pieces are just the means to do it."
    - Sam (Samuel Jackson)

    pragmatism in practice:
    "Look done to me."
    - Fresh (Sean Nelson)

  • Marv Mickey Rourke, SIN CITY (2005 - Rodriguez & Miller)
    Like a phoenix rising from the ash heap of Hollywood, Mickey Rourke is the absolute perfect big screen embodiment of Frank Miller's mountain of vengeance known only as Marv. A perrennial loser with the scars to show for it and a raging mind that fails him without his meds, Marv is set up as a fall guy in the ultimate corrupt Hell that is BaSIN City. But thanks to one taste of heaven from an angel by the name of Goldie, Marv has the resolve to keep moving forward until he exacts any and all revenge for her murder. Pain and deception and the Devil himself can't stop Marv, 'cause the one thing he's great at is killin' folks, but here for the first time he has a true quest to attach to the bloodshed. And he's good at trading up for coats too. Marv eats badasses for breakfast.

    happy days are here again...:
    "It's going to be blood for blood and by the gallon. These are the old days, the bad days, the all-or-nothing days. They're back!"
    prayer for fighting onward:
    "Worth dying for, worth killing for, worth going to Hell for. Amen."
    final words:
    "That the best you can do, ya' pansies?"

  • Leonard Smalls, a.k.a. The Lone Biker of the Apocalypse Randall "Tex" Cobb, Raising Arizona (1987)
    A hulking mess of hair and dirt that can track a man (or baby) like a bloodhound, with absolutely no consideration for anything in his way - or even cute widdle bunny wabbits who aren't in his way at all. The morotcycle-riding bounty hunter Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson) refuses to hire to find his kidnapped infant son ("Nathan Junior, I think") is a dark force of nature, apparently without a moral center or any chance of being stopped once he decides his course of action. Played by the intimidating figure Randall "Tex" Cobb, who in real life was a heaveyweight contender then kickboxer before talking some acting gigs, The Lone Biker of the Apocalypse is a vision of Hell in Joel & Ehtan Coen's alternatively dark and wacky comedy, but still one big ol' badass....just be careful what you wear on your leather-clad person as a badass fashion accessory.

    his introduction in a fever dream:
    "That night I had a dream. I drifted off thinking about happiness, birth and new life. But now I was haunted by a vision of....he was horrible. The lone biker of the Apocalypse. A man with all the powers of Hell at his command. He could turn the day into night, and laid waste to everything in his path. He was especially hard on the little things, the helpless and gentle creatures. He left scorched earth in his wake, befouling even the sweet desert breeze that whipped across his brow. I didn't know where he came from or why. I didn't know if he was a dream or a vision. But I feared I myself had unleashed him."
    - H.I. McDunnough

    best and most apt putdown:
    "...you warthog from Hell!"
    - Edwina McDunnough

  • Wilson Terence Stamp, The Limey (1999 - Soderbergh)
    A career criminal showing every day of his age in his well-worn face, Wilson is not the biggest or the strongest or the fastest...but in order to find out what led to the death of his estranged daughter he will do just about anything with all the size, strength and speed of an army. The most probable suspect to his little girl's death is Terry Valentine (Peter Fonda), a smooth-talking ex-hippie record producer who lives like a king in the Hollywood hills. Wilson's own checkered past and long prison stretches kept him from ever really knowing his daughter past the age of nine, but she knew him well enough to find a man very much like him - tragically in more ways than Wilson realizes at first. But with his white receeding hairline, his sad steely blue eyes amid wrinkles, and a sometimes indecipherable cockney slang, Wilson's single-minded resolve barely covering his burning rage makes him one heck of a badass, and a one-man army.

    recipe for life and revenge:
    "Bide your time and everything becomes clear, and you can act accordingly."
    Wilson's bottom line:
    "You tell him, you tell him I'm coming. Tell him I'm fu*king coming!"
    yet not everybody gets him:
    "There's one thing I don't understand. The thing I don't understand is every motherfu*kin' word you're saying."
    - DEA Agent in charge (Bill Duke)

  • JUROR #8, Mr. Davis Henry Fonda, 12 Angry Men (1957 - Sidney Lumet)
    Another example of "badassness" coming from more than just the ability to exact fear and destruction, in the great and thrilling look at the American legal system, 12 Angry Men, the brave voice of compassion and reason is juror number eight (Hank Fonda). On surface elements and most definitely the prevailing mood of the deliberation room, the case before them is as clear-cut as they come: minority teenager involved in act of violence, surely he must have done it and the only verdict is "guilty". But to everyone's surprise and most of the men's aggravation (for a variety of personal reasons, ranging from the selfish short term goal of making the ballgame by the first pitch to easy knee-jerk racism to psychological scars from a broken relationship with a son), there is a hold-out in their midst. Somebody among them actually wants to go over the evidence, piece by piece, on the possibility that the boy is innocent. To stand up for a principle and then defend it with precise logic in that room at that time takes brass balls as big as the great outdoors. Juror number eight has 'em clanging beneath his quiet demeanor, making him a big badass for justice. Resolve and determination to see things through, no matter the odds or obstacles, that's a badass in my book. And he throws that switchblade down pretty hard into the tabletop too!

    telling it like it is:
    "Ever since we walked into this room, you've been behaving like a self-appointed public avenger....You want to see this boy die because you personally want it, not because of the facts!....You're a sadist!"
    the point:
    "It's very hard to keep personal prejudice out of a thing like this. And no matter where you run into it, prejudice obscures the truth. Well, I don't think any real damage has been done here, because I don't really know what the truth is. No one ever will, I suppose. Nine of us now seem to feel that the defendant is innocent, but we're just gambling on probabilities. We may be wrong. We may be trying to return a guilty man to the community. No one can really know. But we have a reasonable doubt, and this is a safeguard which has enormous value to our system. No jury can declare a man guilty unless it's SURE. We nine can't understand how you three are still so sure. Maybe you can tell us."

  • Conan Arnold Schwarzenegger, Conan the Barbarian (1982 - John Milius)
    As a young boy he watches his parents slain by rogue warlords thirsting for steel and conquest. Sold into slavery, he becomes muscled beyond belief, which gets him into a low-rent gladiator school. As a dealer of death, Conan has found his calling, and now has all the tools to exact revenge on the man who killed his family and tribe. It doesn't matter what forces he must face, be it a sea of swords, crucifixion or the scales of a snake-worshipping sorcerer, Conan the berzerker killing machine cannot be stopped. He is the ultimate primal badass in a loin cloth, and the kind of drunk who'll even punch-out livestock.

    we all know this answer by heart - what is best in life? Hit it, Conan...:
    "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women!"
    getting religion...kinda:
    "Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad, why we fought, and why we died. All that matters is that today, two stood against many. Valor pleases you, so grant me this one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, the HELL with you!"

"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

ObiWanShinobi's Avatar
District B13

So many good movies, so little time.
When he has a few drinks in him

William Munny

"Those are my principles. If you don't like them I have others."- Groucho Marx

The People's Republic of Clogher
Some good choices there and I'm gonna add Don (Ben Kingsley) from Sexy Beast to the list.

The best, and scariest, nut-job I've seen in a movie for years. What makes him better, for me, is his reality. He's short, skinny and bald but you wouldn't mess with him in a million years. It's all in his attitude: dog with a bone.

"You're the problem! You're the ****ing problem you ****ing Dr White honkin' jam-rag ****ing *****-bubble! I'm telling you Aitch you keep looking at me I'll put you in the ****ing ground, promise you!" nb: this was the quote that caused me least asterisk abuse, check the IMDB for some hilarious alternatives.

Don reminds me of an old acquaintance called Philly, who used to deliberately move his seat in a crowded pub so that people walking past had no option but to bump into him. The the arguments would start.....
"Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how the Tatty 100 is done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves." - Brendan Behan

Originally Posted by uconjack
When he has a few drinks in him...

Hell of a thing, killin' a man. You
take away all he's got, and all
he's ever gonna have.

Yeah, well, I guess he had it comin'.

We all got it comin', kid.

I am having a nervous breakdance

Ghost Dog
The novelist does not long to see the lion eat grass. He realizes that one and the same God created the wolf and the lamb, then smiled, "seeing that his work was good".


They had temporarily escaped the factories, the warehouses, the slaughterhouses, the car washes - they'd be back in captivity the next day but
now they were out - they were wild with freedom. They weren't thinking about the slavery of poverty. Or the slavery of welfare and food stamps. The rest of us would be all right until the poor learned how to make atom bombs in their basements.

Taking care of planet Earth
Originally Posted by Holden Pike
  • Walker Lee Marvin, Point Blank (1967)

    great mantra:
    "I just want my money."
    best assessment:
    "You're a very bad man, Walker!"
    - Brewster (Carroll O'Connor)

Walker is a great tough guy, good choice Holden. One of my favourite films too.

My votes:

Snake Plissken (Kurt Russel in Escape from New York)

Plissken is a great anti-hero with some real good lines, this is my favourite when he is talking to Hauk (Lee Van Cleef):

Bob Hauk: You going to kill me, Snake?
Snake Plissken: Not now, I'm too tired.
Snake Plissken: Maybe later.

Which brings me onto:

Angel Eyes Sentenza (Lee Van Cleef in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly)

Richard (Paddy Considine in Dead Man's Shoes)

Excellent performance from Paddy Considine in this film he is genuinely scary at times.

Herbie: Can I help you, mate?
Richard: [shrugs] No
Herbie: Then what the **** are you looking at?
Richard: [shouts] You, ya ****!

Top of the Tough Guy tree:

**edit** Sorry about all the different sizes/colours, it looks fine in preview, can't work out how to correct it. Will have to practice a bit more I think...
My Top 20 films

I knew there was a reason I joined this board/forum or whatever the hell it is. That summary of tough guys was excellent. Especially the part where you included Henry Fonda from Twelve Angry Men.

Henry Fonda and Conan...diversity at its finest.
My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.

Riddick - "Pitch Black"
Morpheus - "The Matrix"
Tyler Durden - "Fight Club"
Wolverine - "X-Men 2"
Mal - "Serenity"

I wipe my ass with your feelings

Derek Vinyard
We're soldiers. Soldiers don't go to hell. It's war. Soldiers, they kill other soldiers. We're in a situation where everybody involved knows the stakes. And if you're gonna accept those stakes... You gotta do certain things. It's business, we're soldiers. We follow codes... Orders.

Put me in your pocket...
I wanted to add a couple more women to the list. They may not be tough in terms of physical strength...but their mere presence would put anyone on guard.

Eleanor of Aquitaine...Katharine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter (1968)
She’s master of head games. Quick and strong minded, she stands up to and dishes out to a self-centered Henry II. She also controls three grown sons who are full of themselves. Even if she can’t control her circumstances completely, she’s one tough bird that won’t be controlled by any man.

Eleanor: “What would you have me do? Give out? Give up? Give in?’
Henry II: “Give me a little peace.”
Eleanor: “A little? Why so modest? How about eternal peace? Now there's a thought.”

Regina Giddens...Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
Wow....what a _itch. Calculating, cold, greedy...don’t get in this woman’s way. No one does it better than Bette.

“I hope you die!, I hope you die soon!, I'll be waiting for you to die!"

thedeal526's Avatar
Registered User

Now this may sound a little silly, but hear me out. What about FRODO from the Lord of the Ring? I know no one thinks of Hobbits when talking about tough guys. But think about it, Frodo and his pal Sam traveled all the way to Mt. Doom in Mordor. A task that even Borimer of Gundor said "Not with 10,000 men could you do this". Frodo did it, with virtually no weapons, little food, and not to mention, bearing the burden of the ring of power the entire time. That to me constitutes toughness.

Put me in your pocket...
I think that's a very good thought Deal. Welcome aboard to MoFo.