There are a lot of good movies out there, a lot that are cool even, but it’s the rarest of beasts that is a truly badass movie. They don’t all have to be Oscar winners and they certainly shouldn’t be Christopher Nolan-levels of confusing, they just have to have the right attitude. You know what that attitude is. It’s a lot like class – you just know it when you see it.
And so the following movies aren’t necessarily ranked according to quality, but according to that attitude, to that almost indefinable spirit that makes anyone who watches them say, “Damn, now that was badass.”
The 50 Most Badass Movies Of All Time
Kurt Russell slapping around a fat Billy Bob Thornton and reducing him to tears, Val Kilmer as the best Doc Holliday ever, the shootout at the OK Corral, Sam freakin’ Elliott… what’s not to love? Okay, so maybe there is a corny love story crammed in there too, but we’ll overlook that.
49. ‘Point Break’
On set – Point Break (1991).
Reagan usually does the driving. Stolen switch car. They leave it running… on the curb. It look sparked from the distance. When they run they dump the vehicle and they vanish… like a virgin on prom night. I mean they vanish, swishh… pic.twitter.com/FJ4asScJGM
— Kenneth Palermo (@kennypalermo) April 11, 2021
I’m not gonna lie to you, this might be my favorite movie of all time. That’s because it’s got peak Swayze, and peak Swayze is badass enough all on his own. Bodhi is an all-time great name for an undercover surfing cop. You could try to argue with me, but really, that would just make you look bad, and I don’t want that. I care about you.
It’s Liam Neeson beating the shit out of some degenerate sex traffickers for two hours straight, all while maintaining that badass Liam Neeson cool. Any questions?
This is Jason Statham at his very best. Yes, it’s completely ridiculous and absurd, but I don’t know if there is a more fun movie made in the last decade or so. The action is over the top, the Statham factor is through the roof, and it never stops kicking your ass.
Don’t know who Tony Jaa is? Well check this movie out and watch him use Muy Thai kickboxing to beat the hell out of everyone in the world. The movie’s tag-line is “No stunt doubles, no computer images, no strings attached.” It’s just real fight scenes from start to finish without all the garish fakery you see everywhere else.
Honestly, it’s hard to know where to place Machete. That’s because it’s badass almost to a fault. It’s so self-conscious of its badassery that it’s almost a parody, but in the end, it’s still got Danny Trejo owning fools all over the place, and you can’t deny that.
I’m talking the OG Robocop, not the recent knockoff. Look, there’s a reason why the city of Detroit has openly discussed building a Robocop statue, and that’s because a badass city recognizes a badass hero when it sees one. Don’t fuck with the D, and don’t fuck with Robocop.
43. ‘Once Upon a Time in China’
Look, adding the “Once Upon a Time in…” to any movie title makes it 78% more badass. That’s just the rule. But considering this is the movie that really made Jet Li, it probably would’ve been just fine regardless. It’s an epic of badassery and yes, that’s totally a word.
Jean-Claude Van Damme fights Chong Li. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, then you are in the wrong place and I will pray for you. I should also mention that JCVD’s sidekick in this one is the dude who played Ogre in Revenge of the Nerds because why wouldn’t I mention that?
41. ‘Lethal Weapon 2’
In some ways, Lethal Weapon 2 might actually be a better, more entertaining movie than the original. I’m not sure if it’s as badass, but it still holds its own with Mel Gibson as crazy man Riggs and Danny Glover as a dude who’s too old for this shit but still capable of kicking some ass. There are explosions, houses getting pulled down and old racists getting owned even though they have diplomatic immunity. That works for me.
40. ‘Casino Royale’
— Russell Designer (@RussellDesigner) May 14, 2021
To be honest, the Bond franchise isn’t all that badass. It’s fun, even cool depending on which Bond you end up with, but it doesn’t quite have the edge that all badass movies need. That all changed when Daniel Craig took over. In Casino Royale, he brought that edge to the suave superspy, and while he still loves his gadgets, he’s also not afraid to just straight whip a dude’s ass.
39. ‘The Raid’
This Indonesian action flick is about a SWAT team that ends up trapped in a high rise apartment building by a gang of thugs, and, well, asses are kicked in great quantity. This was a movie made for the sole purpose of being badass, and who am I to deny such vision?
38. ’13 Assassins’
13 assassins (surprise!) band together in feudal Japan to kill an evil warlord, only to find that to do so they basically have to take on the whole world. It’s an old theme, but it’s always a badass one, and with ace director Takashi Miike running things, the movie squeezes out all the violence and badassery there is to be found inside.
37. ‘Lethal Weapon’
The original is a little darker, a little grimmer, than the almost Looney Tunesish sequels, but it’s that edge that makes it just a little more badass. Look, any movie that climaxes with Mel Gibson choking out Gary Busey on the front lawn during Christmas has earned its badass stripes.
36. ‘The Legend of Drunken Master’
It’s Jackie Chan, and it’s Jackie Chan deriving his fighting skills from getting completely trashed. Just read that again.
35. ‘Police Story’
This is probably Jackie Chan’s best movie, which means that it is pretty much badass by definition. Anytime you’ve got an unassuming little dude kicking the ass of every bad guy in existence all while doing the craziest stunts anyone has ever seen, you’ve got a good thing going for you. That’s all I’m saying.
34. ‘The Searchers’
This is peak John Wayne, and why are you even waiting for me to say anything else? It’s John Wayne! Batman’s dad! Okay, that last part might not be true, but John Wayne’s badassery sure as hell is.
This is Jet Li at his most stylish. This movie has plenty of action, but it’s also absolutely beautiful, and beauty is its own unique form of badass. We’re modern bros, we can acknowledge this.
Antonio Banderas kills everyone in various badass ways and bangs a naked Salma Hayek. Works for me.
31. ‘The Killer’
This is probably John Wu’s best movie, and considering that John Wu probably spends 90% of his time just sitting around dreaming up badass scenes for his movies, that’s saying a lot. This is stylish action at its very best.
30. ‘For a Few Dollars More’
It’s Clint Eastwood in the second movie of the Dollars trilogy, and… it’s Clint Eastwood in the Dollars trilogy! I refuse to explain to you why that’s badass because if you need me to, then you are already beyond hope.
29. ‘Ip Man’
Donnie Yen kicks everyone’s ass as the legendary Yip Man, and really, all you need to know about Yip Man is that he was Bruce Lee’s mentor in real life. Yes, that Bruce Lee. But instead of getting bogged down in dramatic biographical details, the movie does the smart thing and, uh, embellishes a little for the sake of badass action. Good choice.
28. ‘Inglourious Basterds’
This is basically a snuff film, only the victims are all Nazis so it’s okay. Any movie that climaxes with Hitler getting machine gunned to death in graphic detail has earned its place on this list. That’s just a rule I have.
27. ‘Enter the Dragon’
This is both the apex of the Bruce Lee legend and his last movie, and if you need any more reasons than that for this being here, well… you haven’t been paying attention. To anything. Ever.
Arnold fights an alien super-hunter in a tropical jungle, Jesse “the Body” Ventura ain’t got time to bleed, and this is one of the most formative movies for an entire generation. That probably explains why we’re so messed up, but also why we’re so goddamn awesome.
25. ‘Full Metal Jacket’
The first half of this movie is perfect, with R. Lee Ermey’s insane drill instructor as maybe the most badass dude who ever lived. This is Stanley Kubrick’s take on war, so how could it not be amazing?
To be honest, this is kind of a thoughtful, somber, contemplative movie… right up until some jackasses mess with Morgan Freeman and then his boy, Clint Eastwood, shows up and murders everyone like a boss. This is Clint’s Man With No Name trying to outrun his past, failing, and then embracing the badass within.
23. ‘Death Wish’
Some degenerates kill his wife, so Charles Bronson goes all vigilante and opens up a can of whoop ass on every asshole in New York City. And that’s a lot of assholes. This movie doesn’t fuck around.
This movie just has that indefinable “it”, that attitude that we all know and love as “badass.” There isn’t over the top action or anything like that, but don’t even try to tell me that DeNiro, Pesci and Liotta aren’t total badasses here. At its heart, Goodfellas is about capturing a piece of the American Dream no matter what it takes, and what could be more badass than that?
21. ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’
Sergio Leone + epic spaghetti western + Charles Bronson + Henry Fonda as one of the best bad guys ever = a totally badass movie. And “Man With Harmonica” might be the most badass song in movie history.
20. ‘First Blood’
The first Rambo movie is also the most badass, as Stallone has to live by his wits and ass-kicking skills as he fights off an entire army’s worth of dudes in the woods. Yeah, the body count in the sequels is higher, but all of those deaths, and all that action, combined can’t touch First Blood. Sometimes, story makes all the difference.
19. ‘The Dirty Dozen’
A band of misfit soldiers have to band together to take out Nazis in World War II. Really, we’re at the point where I can probably just describe the movies and stop there, but I should probably also mention that this movie stars badass icons Lee Marvin, Jim Brown and Charles Bronson. Now that’s how you do a World War II movie.
18. ‘Leon: The Professional’
Jean Reno plays a lonely assassin who befriends a young girl, played by Natalie Portman, and teaches her the tricks of the trade as she seeks vengeance on an over the top Gary Oldman. This is the movie that showed that little girls can be more badass than an entire army.
The song is running through your head even as you read this. Don’t front. And since that’s true, then I don’t even need to explain to you why this is so badass.
16. ‘Cool Hand Luke’
Paul Newman gives a master class in cool badassery here. He’s not an in your face alpha action star, he’s just a bro who refuses to give in to the system, and that speaks to the inner badass in all of us.
This is peak Steve McQueen, maybe the most badass actor ever. And that Mustang… goddamn! Case closed.
14. ‘Kill Bill’
I’m including both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 here because let’s be honest, it’s really just one movie. And this one movie is basically Quentin Tarentino’s ode to all things badass, and what’s not to love? The characters are all awesome, Uma Thurman is one of the most badass heroines ever, and David Carradine is a goddamn boss as Bill.
The first Alien is a great movie, but not necessarily badass. But then James Cameron got a hold of things, turned Sigourney Weaver into the most badass heroine ever, and added a supporting cast that includes Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton and Lance Henriksen, all of whom might be at their most badass here. This is how you make a sci-fi action movie.
12. ‘Pulp Fiction’
Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Jules Winfield, has a wallet with the words “Bad Motherfucker” stitched on it and he might not even be the coolest, baddest character in the movie. If that wasn’t enough, the movie itself completely transformed the movie industry almost overnight. It was a force of nature.
11. ‘Apocalypse Now’
War gone insane, which is basically what war really is. There was never really anything like this before, and there hasn’t been since. It’s long, crazy, and full of memorably cool scenes. From Robert Duvall’s love of napalm in the morning and classical music while his choppers rain down death from above to Marlon Brando’s dark, insane turn, there is so much badass in this movie, they had to go back and make an even longer version to satisfy everyone.
10. ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’
In a lot of ways, T2 is maybe more badass than the original. It’s got the requisite Arnold being a boss, it adds in Robert Patrick as the freaky Liquid Metal Terminator, plus Linda Hamilton steps her game up and out-badasses even Arnold. It’s flashy, noisy, and basically the perfect action movie, except of course for Edward Furlong’s presence, but we’ll overlook that.
9. ‘The Wild Bunch’
A gang of degenerate outlaws finds themselves trapped against an entire army. What do they do? Well, if you guessed that they touch off a wild, massive gunfight that when it was released was the most violent scene in movie history, you’d be right. This is where modern movie badassery probably started.
One of the most iconic roles of Al Pacino’s career. Oliver Stone’s script gives the brutal violence, a tragic American dream, crime, and the paranoia that comes with being the drug king of Miami for Tony Montana. One of the best gangster movies.
Score: 10/10 pic.twitter.com/BxBYssjXoQ
— cris (@castlec_) May 11, 2021
There has never been a more macho movie in history. Al Pacino practically invented modern swag here, and as ridiculous as it is, you also can’t deny that it’s dripping in badassery.
7. ‘The Terminator’
Like I said, in a lot of ways, the sequel might have actually been more badass, but in a very basic way, in the fundamentals of badassery, it can’t touch the original. It’s darker, grittier, and Arnold stalking the streets, chasing Sarah Connor, shooting up police stations and nightclubs, is terrifying as hell. Robot killing machines from the future are something everyone jokes about these days, but this is where that shit was born. Imagine seeing this for the first time in 1984. Good Lord.
Come with me if you want to live.
You might know this Akira Kurusawa movie better by its remake – A Fistful of Dollars, the first movie in Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western badass epic known as the Dollars trilogy. Instead of trying to pick between the two, we’ll put them both here, and give credit to Kurasawa for actually coming up with the idea of a lone gunmen forced to play two feuding clans against one another in order to survive. This is where the Man With No Name was truly born, and where East and West meet in perfect badass harmony.
5. ‘The Godfather’
Maybe it’s not badass in a traditional way, but there are so many scenes in this movie that have become legendary – “it’s just business,” “don’t ever take sides against the family,” the horse head in the bed, Michael taking over the family business in an epic run of bloody vengeance, I could go on and on here – and… actually, reading all that back, this is absolutely badass in a traditional and every other way.
4. ‘Dirty Harry’
Clint Eastwood. Dirty Harry. “Do you feel lucky, punk?” Just repeat all that over and over to yourself if you need further explanation.
3. ‘Seven Samurai’
More than half of this list owes its existence in one way or another to this movie, the story of seven samurai who defend a poor village from attacks by bandits. I mean, come on, samurais against the world? What’s more badass than that? It was remade in the US as The Magnificent Seven, itself a badass western, and really, it doesn’t get any better than this.
2. ‘Die Hard’
This is the perfect action movie. It’s the ultimate ’80s time capsule that still holds up in present day. T
here is a famous anecdote in Hollywood about the first time this movie was screened. Apparently, when it was finished, the theater was dead silent, and the execs were worried they had a bomb on their hands. Then a dude stood up and screamed “Play it again!” to cheers from the crowd. The story is probably bullshit, but Die Hard is so badass that everyone believes it anyway. This is who Bruce Willis will always be to people, and Hans Gruber is one of the all-time greatest bad guys.
1. ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’
This is the best of the entire Dollars trilogy and it’s untouchable when it comes to badassery. You’ve got Clint in the defining Man With No Name role, you’ve got Eli Wallach as the ridiculously badass Tuco, and even the “bad” in the title, Lee Van Cleef’s Angel Eyes, is a fucking boss. Then there’s Sergio Leone’s perfect direction, Ennio Morricone’s score – which is only the greatest in movie history – and… do I really need to go on? If you had to describe the concept of badass to an alien, you’d just show him this movie.