TOP 5 MOVIE HEROES
Essentially this is a list of my top leading heroes in movies that aren’t based on comic books. Potential spoilers so be warned if you’ve never seen a movie. On with the list…
Harry Callahan (The Dirty Harry Quintet)
Dirty Harry came out in 1971, five years after the last Man With No Name film. Not only did it set Clint Eastwood into a whole new genre it laid the foundations for action movies to follow like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon. The first two Dirty Harry films are the best in the series. The other three are pretty standard action thriller affairs. But the reality is you are drawn to Eastwoods performance more than anything else. He seems an unlikely choice for a hero. After the release of the first film Eastwoods portrayal of Callahan was labelled fascist, sexist, close to racist at times. Yes the film maybe a product of its time and I believe there is no way you could make it now. With social awareness, gun crime in America and police brutality being at the state its at now.
Okay people might go and see it but it wouldn’t stand a chance in my opinion. But Callahan is the perfect cop for 70’s San Francisco. Now we think of Callahan as the epitome of a lone wolf. Through the five films we see him working fleetingly with others. His partners depart him via a series of action movie stereotypes. However very early in the first film its easy to see he is better working alone and you could even say he enjoys it. The film is laced with a few anecdotes about how he has acquired the nickname ‘Dirty Harry’. He talks a guy down from jumping off a ledge when know one asked him to. He stops a bank robbery whilst eating a hotdog. This can do attitude is what brings him to the attention of Scorpio. Again when Scorpio has him running all of the city he doesn’t shirk responsibility no matter how badly he would just love to shot him and ask questions later.
The suit and the badge are his hero costume. The sideburns and eyebrows complete his distinct look. Then there is the 44 Magnum “The most powerful handgun in the world.” Appearance is as key as actions in creating a cool lasting hero. In his way I would say Clint Eastwood is easy on the eye. Tall and slender his movements appear slow and calculating. A man of few words his speech matches his steely determination. Its easy to say Eastwoods just transferred what made him a success in Spaghetti Westerns to the crime genre and there is some truth in this. Nowadays catchphrases may seem corny, nothing more than a gimmick from cinemas past. With the Dirty Harry movies we get not one but two. With Eastwoods voice behind a no nonsense cop it makes perfect sense. Nobody else could deliver “Go a head make my day” and make it convincing. The catchphrase from the fist Dirty Harry is more famous and it seems the perfect place to end my case; “Do I feel lucky? Well do ya, punk?”
Jason Bourne (The Bourne Trilogy)
Jason Bourne maybe to dangerous to be considered a hero in some peoples eyes. A highly trained US Government asset, set upon targets at their will before going AWOL. After the events of the first film whenever high ranking officials mention his name people shit their pants. It could also be seen as the role that launched Matt Damon into the mega stardom he finds himself now. Part of what makes Bourne appealing is he is dangerous. He is a trained killer! But on the flip side we as an audience want to learn who he really is as much as he does. With each Bourne film the stakes were higher and the answers to his past came more into view. Also with each film two things became apparent; Jason Bourne can drive like a bat out of hell and fight with the most obscure weapons.
His CIA codename may as well be Batman. It is widely accepted if Batman has time to plan he can more than stand his own against anyone. The same with Bourne. If you have read the original novels like me you know how meticulous he is in planning. The car chase in the first film is up there with the best. It is the way you would pass your driving test if you could. Take one look at the points the tester needs to see and then bam deliver them! Whilst Batman has his utility belt has he ever defeated a man with a pen or a rolled up magazine? No but Jason Bourne has. His high skill set allows him to be confident, his training keeps him grounded. Remember in these films he doesn’t go looking for trouble. Trouble finds him. He gave fair warning in the first film. Bourne is a character that not only talks the talk he backs it up and walks the walk. I quote “There is no telling how hard and how fast I will bring this fight to your doorstep.” You piss him off in two more films and thats exactly what he does.
He is a man that doesn’t lack conviction, a man who can back up strong words with stronger action. The scene in the third film at the train station is the best scene to illustrate all these previous points. He is in an unfavourable setting against unknown forces. Out number by feet on the ground and tech in the air. He takes them out with out firing a weapon or breaking a sweat. Cold hearted calculation and execution thats what Bourne is all about. A calm deadliness under pressure Bourne would never utter a catchphrase. His signature move is the pistol whip. The Bourne trilogy brought this back to cinema screens in a big way. Its so brutal but looks so bad ass! I can’t speak for the fourth film but the trilogy ends perfectly. The perfect ending for a man on a mission.
Han Solo (Star Wars Trilogy)
Yes the coolest man from a galaxy far far away only comes in at number three! In 1977 when male cinema goers were leaving their first viewing of Star Wars I would go as far to say 99% came out wanting to be Han not Luke. Thats is an easy statement to make in hindsight. Having spent my years hearing many a geeky take on the Star Wars trilogy. But Luke is front and centre for the entire trilogy. Harrison Ford wasn’t even first or second choice for the role. But he took it, owned it and lit up the screen with his presence. As soon as we are introduced to Han in the Mos Esily the coolness of cinema history is changed. The way he saunters over to the table, lays out his plan and gets the amount he wants all in his unique style. People were soon forgetting about a moisture farmer from Tattooine. Unlike the audience Han doesn’t cast Luke aside. As the trilogy progresses they has more of a big brother vibe.
Or maybe he’s more like The Fonz to Lukes Richie Cunningham. Someone to go to for advice, all while he’s taping your sister on the side! Harrison Ford does a lot of acting just with a simple grin or a look towards someone. Chewbacca for those of you who didn’t know is just a guy in a suit! But they way Han looks at him be it with trust, disagreement or even anger you believe their back story. The way Force Awakens and unfortunately real life panned out it adds a whole new dimension to Fords improvised line in Empire Strikes Back. When Leia declare her love for him now when you here is delivery of “I know” its just gut wrenching. The most romantic scene in any movie hands down. It won’t leave a dry eye in the house. I’ve said it before and I stand by it. Han Solo shot Greedo first. I don’t want to hear the argument that he is a General in the Rebel Alliance.
That’s only by the trilogies end. At the start he is the type of character who has the balls to shoot first and just walk away from it and that is exactly what happened in that scene. End of! When you think about the fact Ford wasn’t first choice to play Han or that he was even committed to a trilogy, he still came in gave it everything and created an icon. A movie legend! The coolest scoundrel to have ever navigated space in one hell of a ship too. I don’t envy the guy whos been cast as young Han Solo one bit. Yeah its the role we all dreamed of but all I can say to him is good luck!
John McClane (Die Hard Trilogy)
When Bruce Willis walks out of that bathroom and dons the vest an icon was created. Batman has his cape and cowl whilst John McClane has his dirty vest. Also the no shoes in the original Die Hard becomes a good plot point. Die Hard is as close as to perfection as you will get for an action movie. Whilst McClane may not posses the brain and skills of other entrants on my list he more than makes up for it with heart, determination and over confidence. Who else would jump off a building tied only by a fire hose? Who else would try and land a plane with two naked flames? John McClane thats who! In many ways he was like having Wolverine on screen before anyone dreamed of making an X-Men movie. They hit home with the sequels tag lines “John McClane is in the wrong place at the wrong time.” and “John McClane is about to have a very bad day.” that he is just a normal beat cop. Not a highly intellectual homicide detective or a muscle bound swat member. Just a cop or as he is called in the third movie a dumb Irish flat foot.
With each film the amount of terrorists and the risks they pose become bigger. The question is not will he survive the threat? But how will he survive? Because of course he is going to bring the fight right to them. He’s our boy! It seems to be a recurring theme for this list but Willis wasn’t the first choice for the role. So much of Willis seems to be in McClane. He has great chemistry with all his co stars across the three movies. Even just when he is talking over the radio with Al it feels real. The talk of growing up watching Roy Rogers feels like it could have come from Willis’ childhood.
The scene where he interacts with Alan Rickmans Hans is on point and when it reaches its pay off the audience is like well of course he knew! When we get to the second film and see McClanes attitude towards other policemen and authority figures we accept it as being in character. In Die Hard With A Vengeance his at first uneasy alliance with Zeus is believable and you believe over the course of the movie they would bond the way the do. John McClane is a hero because he has a costume of sorts, a never say die attitude and a awesome catchphrase. Yippee Ki-Yay Mother Fucker! Oh also me and John aren’t to big on flying. Remember fists with your toes.
Indiana Jones (Indian Jones Trilogy)
With my number once pick I settle the age old argument who is better Indy or Han? The quickest way to justify this is by saying you can have Star Wars without Han but you can’t have Indiana without Indy. Harrison Ford was born for the role. We’ve all heard the Tom Selleck story but Indy is Ford. More so than he is Han Solo in my opinion. Anyway I’m not here to attack Han he made the list too after all. So what makes Indiana Jones such a cool hero? Apart from kicking Nazi ass.
He is the most charismatic teacher in all cinema and all of teaching. The way he plays the role you believe there could actually be a gun wielding archaeology teacher out there somewhere. Like the others on the list he has a recognisable look. The hat, the whip, the most recognisable silhouette in cinema? Even if its not it makes a for a great visual and it never feels over used it just makes you giddy. Like John McClane Indy is just a normal guy but in order to protect what he believes in he’s throwing himself off of tanks, under cars and arming himself with a bazooka all in the name of history.
In all the James Bond movies the movies change, the women change but Bonds attitude towards them remains the same. This is not the case with Indian Jones. In the three movies with three different female companions each relationship is obviously different. With Marion its the closest to true love, they are equals. In the second movie you get the impression Indy would rather not have Willie along for the ride, yes hes attracted to her but thats about it. Finally with Dr. Schneider things are a little more complicated. Again there is physical attraction and she has respect for his craft but yeah shes a Nazi. For me Indys best relationship in the trilogy is with Short Round. Made more real by both actors. At times you feel they could be father and son, More so than Ford and Connery in the third instalment. My favourite scene in the entire trilogy is in Temple of Doom just after Indy snaps out of being possessed. He and Shortie give each other their hats back and embrace. It is such a touching moment almost hidden in the all the action.
I joked his relationship with his Father may not be as convincing it does have its moments. Again like with Han Solo its the grinning and the eye movements. They way he looks at Sean Connery at times is how you would like at you father if you were on such an adventure. That look of searching for approval whilst revelling in the excitement. The bit where Connery hits him for swearing is pretty on the money. He’s good with a whip and a gun. Best highlighted by the way he famously kills the showy swordsmen. What else do he excel at? How about thinking on his feet. Jumping out of a plane with nothing more than an inflatable boat is ridiculous but such an enjoyable moment to watch each time. The opening of Last Crusade with River Phoenix is another high of the trilogy. I adds so much to the mythos of Indy. Its placing at the beginning of the final instalment makes it pop. Indiana Jones just oozes confidence and borderline arrogance. He kicks Nazi ass, fighting for the side of history with at times nothing more than a whip and just looks so fucking cool doing it.
About Ian Wells
Ian currently runs the THEBLOGOFCOMICSHOTTOPICS blog. Check him out on Twitter @IanWells87.
About Language of Bromance
Together Richard and Shawn formed the podcast The Language of Bromance and from there it has been nothing but fun. The duo laugh about things they go through, stories in the news and even getting serious discussing net neutrality along with other issues. Every so often their friendship turns to a bitter rivalry with their nerdiest creation the draft episodes. An original take on a best of or a top 10 list. The draft episodes are done like an NFL Draft 7 rounds where Richard and Shawn flip-flop picks on various topics.
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