50 Best Guy Movies
of All-Time
(in two parts)

Part 1

by Men's Journal

50 Best Guy Movies of All-Time: Men's Journal selected The 50 Best Guy Movies of All-Time in their December 2003 issue, written by David Chute & Mark Horowitz. See Filmsite's own Greatest 'Guy' Movies of All-Time (illustrated) for contrast, and Memorable and Great 'Chick' Flicks. Another list of 100 Greatest Guy Movies Ever Made, compiled by Maxim Magazine, is also excerpted on this site.

Facts and Commentary About the List:

  • The magazine chose the 50 most testosterone-fueled flicks ever, "from the politically incorrect mayhem of Dirty Harry to the knuckleheaded genius of the Three Stooges." The authors stated their film choices' appeal:

...over time basic criteria emerged. Violence trumps sex, war beats peace, and you better have a very good reason to oppose anything with Steve McQueen in it...great guy movies are distillations of the male experience, reduced to the essentials. For good reason, nearly all of them tend to be about soldiers, athletes, cops, and every kind of loner. They are unapologetically male, and often politically incorrect...guy movies do have a moral, and it's always straightforward: If you're a cop or a criminal, a team player or a lone wolf, all that matters is being brave and honorable, no matter the consequences.

  • Various actors kept reappearing in these selections: Al Pacino, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, Robert DeNiro, and Bill Murray.

50 Best Guy Movies Of All-Time
(part 1, ranked)

As avenging cop Dirty Harry Callahan, Clint Eastwood shoots first and asks questions later, creating the most politically incorrect hero in movie history. With his ever ready .44 magnum ("the most powerful handgun in the world"), Clint brings unreconstructed frontier justice to criminal-coddling San Francisco, becoming a role model for law-and-order conservatives everywhere. Ronald Reagan even took his best line ("Make my day") from Sudden Impact, a later Dirty Harry film.
Key Scene: Clint's final face-off with Scorpio, the deranged psycho killer.
Best Line: "You have to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?"

"What is it with men and The Godfather?" wonders chick-flick princess Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail. Tom Hanks responds for us all: "It is the I Ching. It is the sum of all wisdom." Francis Ford Coppola's mob opera is the modern guy's indispensable guide to surviving with honor in a dog-eat-dog world.
Key Scene: How can anyone choose? The horse head in the bed? Sonny's murder? Michael shooting the cop in the restaurant? We know every one backward and forward.
Best Line: "Don't ever take sides with anybody against the family again." "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse." "Leave the gun; take the cannolis." There are millions of them.

3. SCARFACE 1983
An unapologetic assault on everything decent and honorable -- and that's why we love it. Al Pacino's Tony Montana makes his Michael Corleone look and sound like Mr. Rogers. Nothing beats the film's coke-fueled mobster wisdom. Lines like: "First you gotta make the money... then you get the power, then you get the woman" set the tone for a whole generation of gangsta rappers.
Key Scene: One word: chainsaw.
Best Line: "Say hello to my leetle friend."

4. DIE HARD 1988
Forget all the great action scenes this film has -- the best moments are when underdog Bruce Willis kicks the snobby Eurotrash villains' asses without ever losing his all-American sense of humor. The scene where the German villain gets his comeuppance for trying to use the word "cowboy" as an insult resonates more today, though it'd be even better if the guy were French.
Key Scene: Bruce crashes through the window hanging from the firehose.
Best Line: "Yippee-kai-yay, motherf--ker!"

Arnold Schwarzenegger was originally offered the human lead, but he realized that a killer robot from the future was the role he was really born to play. "There is a little bit of the Terminator in everybody," director James Cameron observed. "He operates completely outside all the built-in social constraints."
Key Scene: Any qualms about rooting for a malevolent robot vanish when he vaporizes a tacky L.A. dance club.
Best Line: "I'll be back."

6. THE ROAD WARRIOR 1982 (aka MAD MAX 2 1981, Australia)
Along the endless highways of the Australian outback the loner hero of western and samurai fame gets a futuristic face-lift from Mel Gibson's leather-clad Mad Max. The film has it all: punk-rock marauders, a razor-edged boomerang, postnuclear angst, and high-speed demolition-derby car battles, plus just the right amount of mythic uplift to put it over the top.
Key Scene: When Wez, the deranged Mohawk man, erupts over the hood of Max's truck, it's a "boo" shot for the ages.
Best Line: "You want to get out of here, you talk to me."

Forget Catch 22: World War II gets its true sixties makeover when Lee Marvin trains a bunch of prison rats and turns them into a squad of stone-cold killers tough enough to make Americans, whether redneck or hippie, proud as hell. The cast is a macho who's who: Jim Brown, Charles Bronson, Ernest Borgnine... Telly Savalas! A true believer is anyone who's seen it a dozen times.
Key Scene: Jim Brown's heroic death sprint, a feat of open-field running -- while tossing hand grenades -- that beats anything he ever did with the Cleveland Browns.
Best Line: "You've got one religious maniac, one malignant dwarf, two near-idiots, and the rest I don't even wanna think about!"

8. THE MATRIX 1999
This cyberpunk epic signaled a new kind of male hero, the tough-guy computer geek, and Keanu Reeves makes a most excellent digital superdude. By setting the nonstop action in cyberspace the Wachowski brothers are able to supercharge all the fights with gravity-defying wire fu and some amazing breakthrough CGI.
Key Scene: Neo's airborne subway station showdown with the heinous Agent Smith.
Best Line: "There is no spoon."

Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and an animatronic gopher named Chuck E. Rodent make mincemeat of your old man's snooty pastime. It took 20 years and the arrival of Tiger Woods to make the game seem cool again.
Key Scene: Rodney in excelsis at a high-tone country club soiree bellowing "No offense!" to the horrified diners.
Best Line: "Hey, everybody, we're all gonna get laid!"

10. ROCKY 1976
A blue-collar anthem for the ages, as lunkhead from the neighborhood makes good because he can absorb a surreal amount of punishment. The sequels fudged the fable with too many sappy clichés, but the original lays it on the line. Working guys embraced Sylvester Stallone as a punch-drunk Great White Hope, often bloodied but still unbowed.
Key Scene: Sly on the steps of Philly's Museum of Art, doing his bouncy victory dance.
Best Line: "All I wanna do is go the distance."

The late, great Stanley Kubrick originally thought he was making the ultimate war-is-hell movie, but in the end the film turns out to be a pitch-black comedy. Not everyone admires the result (critic David Thomson calls it "an abomination"), but it has become a true cult classic, and the fiercely scatological dialogue can be heard in bars and college dorms everywhere being repeated reverently by fans. Credit must go to R. Lee Ermey, a former real-life staff sergeant, whose obscene tirades set a new standard for trash talk.
Key Scene: The sniper's identity revealed: a true peek into the abyss.
Best Line: "You had best unf--k yourself or I will unscrew your head and shit down your neck!"

12. DR. NO 1962
The first and purest of the James Bond flicks, before the series turned cute and predictable. Sean Connery's 007 still has that scary edge of lethal ruthlessness. It's an edge he will never have again as the later films (and later Bonds) devolve into a family entertainment franchise. (And trust us, Vin Diesel is not the answer.)
Key Scene: What teenage boy ever forgets his first glimpse of Ursula Andress emerging from the breakers? Eat your heart out, Halle Berry.
Best Line: "That's a Smith and Wesson. You've had your six."

13. THE KILLER 1989
John Woo's signature film is a bullet ballet of male bonding. Chow Yun-Fat is a hit man whose code of honor poleaxes tough cop Danny Lee. Critics unfamiliar with the Chinese tradition of "sworn brotherhood" say the movie has a gay subtext. Crazy, right?
Key Scene: Lee cauterizes the killer's wound with gunpowder.
Best Line: "The only person who really knows me turns out to be a cop."

14. RAGING BULL 1980
Robert De Niro bulks up and lashes out as lowlife fifties antichamp Jake LaMotta, a jealous brute whose life's work was beating people to a pulp. Miraculously, Martin Scorsese makes it into an ode to the human spirit. Joe Pesci, as Jake's brother, makes punk poetry of Paul Schrader's f--k-encrusted dialogue.
Key Scene: The slo-mo fights, choreographed to the sound of exploding flashbulbs.
Best Line: "Did you f--k my wife?"

15. BULLITT 1968
The ultimate Steve McQueen, and a defining moment in guy movie history. He was the coolest star we ever had, and his minimalist charisma keeps winning converts with every passing year. A cop story set in San Francisco, Bullitt isn't driven by the script or the action -- it's just McQueen being McQueen. Taken as a whole, his career teaches us one fundamental truth: Real men should talk less and drive more.
Key Scene: The car chase, for sure, a witty trendsetter over SF's roller-coasting hills, with Steve the racing buff clearly visible behind the wheel of his 390 Mustang GT.
Best Line: "You work your side of the street and I'll work mine."

There were kung fu killers with smoother moves, but no one had Bruce Lee's enraged magnetism. Before he sealed his legend by dying young, the savagely graceful actor explained his secret: "I am not acting. I am just doing my thing."
Key Scene: Battling the steel-clawed Han in an underground hall of mirrors.
Best Line: "Through long years of rigorous training, sacrifice, denial, pain, we forge our bodies in the fire of our will."

How many people truly admire this Francis Ford Coppola-John Milius collaboration as a scathing indictment of the debacle in Vietnam? Damn few. The real reason the film keeps growing in stature is that it's a hallucinatory head trip, the war film to watch when you are baked and basted.
Key Scene: Helicopters attack to the tune of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries."
Best Line: "I love the smell of Napalm in the morning."

Half tragedy, half farce, Martin Scorsese's sadistic gangster classic is a heartfelt fantasy about joining the ultimate boys club. The best scenes are the social gatherings at nightclubs and backroom card games at which the made men savor their precarious status.
Key Scene: The zippy montage sequence depicting the coke-addled frenzy in which Henry Hill's house of cards finally collapses.
Best Line: "You think I'm funny?"

Quentin Tarantino's ferociously black comedy about a botched bank job that goes horribly, violently bad has outlasted the nitpickers who dismissed it as a derivative video geek's greatest-hits anthology with attitude. The borrowed building blocks are much less important than the inspired embellishments. The peerless ensemble cast (led by Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, and Steve Buscemi) make a full-course meal of some of the crudest (and funniest) tough-guy backchat ever written. Early on, the distributor suggested removing the horrific ear-cutting scene, but Tarantino balked. "If violence is part of your palette," he said later, "you have to be free to go where your heart takes you."
Key Scene: We're all ears.
Best Line: "Mr. Brown? That sounds too much like Mr. Shit."

20. FIGHT CLUB 1999
The crude message -- we prove our manhood by learning how to take a punch -- works best when Brad Pitt and Edward Norton are recklessly acting it out rather than simply jawing about it. They almost make you believe it.
Key Scene: The sucking-on-the-gun shot, a truly shocking sight.
Best Line: "First rule of Fight Club: You do not talk about Fight Club."

Even more than Tarantino's stuff, Chris McQuarrie's Oscar-winning script for this Rubik's cube of a caper movie is about guys who live to riff on flavorful tough-guy clichés. Repeated viewings, even once you know who Keyser Soze is, can't dim the film's layered luster.
Key Scene: The lineup. It's all there if you know what to look for.
Best Line: "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."

Every Mel Brooks movie works better on home video than it does in theaters because (like all the Airplane movies) they're really just anthologies of hilarious but dumb gags loosely strung together. Saddles, then, is a classic guy movie by default, because you can drink and talk and even doze off while watching it and you'll still have a great time.
Key Scene: Beans, beans, the musical fruit.
Best Line: "Excuse me while I whip this out."

Outlaws run bloodily amok in war-torn Mexico in 1914, the west's final frontier. "I was trying to tell a simple story about bad men in changing times," said director Sam Peckinpah. "The strange thing is that you feel a great sense of loss when these killers reach the end of the line." The ultraviolent finale is a balletic mass suicide as William Holden and his bunch snatch glorious defeat from the jaws of meaningless victory.
Key Scene: The final, orgiastic bloodbath.
Best Line: "If they move, kill 'em."

Few other movies of this vintage have aged as well. With the edge of sadistic menace that Humphrey Bogart brings to the role of private eye Sam Spade, and the staccato crispness of director John Huston's pacing, the movie still feels bracingly modern. Its cynicism stings no matter how many times you watch it.
Key Scene: Spade's true viciousness emerges in his bullying of the sniveling Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jr.).
Best Line: "When you're slapped you'll take it and like it."

There have been plenty of "revisionist" westerns over the years, but Unforgiven is the last one we'll ever need. Clint Eastwood pulls the rug out from under every romantic myth of the Old West. His perpetually disgusted hero is a retired gunfighter who has come to realize that killing is an ugly, irreversible act.
Key Scene: The messy, bloody gunfight with corrupt lawman Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman).
Best Line: "Hell of a thing, killing a man. You take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have."

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