Shoot 'Em Up opens this week, and Clive Owen is making Bugs Bunny look all sorts of tough and cool. He banters. He sexes up the ladies. He handles guns like a pro. Heck, he even tries to buy them with food stamps. All this badness and guns has thrown me into an antihero state of mind. But before I can go a-listing, we've got to decide what an antihero is.
Blending all of the vague definitions together, your antihero is basically the person who doesn't imbue the classic attributes of heroism. This could mean being inept and stupid, but for the means of this list, I'm going for the antiheroes whose methods, manners and intentions can be questioned. Some are good guys who do bad things, some are bad guys who do good things. Some just don't care as much as a good hero should. But they're all so uber cool that whether you've seen the films or not, you know who they are, and you might just be quoting them.
Note: Only one cop is included on this list, and it isn't John McClane -- he's much more of a bitter hero than a questionable antihero.
Harry Callahan -- Dirty Harry (1971)
I know what you're thinking: "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?
While I love most of the guys on this list, the one who has to be there above all others is Dirty Harry Callahan. He might be a cop trying to keep the streets safe, but instead of upholding the law, he enforces morality with his gun, boot, or whatever else he can find. In the first of the action series, Callahan is hunting down Scorpio, a serial killer loosely based on the Zodiac killer. He tortures suspects when he needs to, and does it all in a suit, tie and sweater. Most of all, he's "Dirty," but no one knows the specific reason why.
Ash -- Army of Darkness (1992)
Good. Bad. I'm the guy with the gun.
He might seem like the toughest good guy there is -- but after killing his sister once and his girlfriend Linda twice, he isn't saving the world with sanity. Ash has gained some bravado by the time he shoots into the past, but he's thinking much more of himself than the people around him -- even though there's no one left to go home to -- his sister, girlfriend and best friend all became food for the Deadites. He only agrees to stick around and help after Sheila is captured. But no matter what he does, he's one of the most quotable men around.
Snake Plissken -- Escape from New York (1981)
I don't give a f*ck about your war... Or your president.
Snake Plissken, military prisoner, has to be heroic -- he doesn't have a choice. He has been injected with explosives and will die in 23 hours -- unless he heads into the city-turned-prison of New York and saves the President, who has been taken hostage after Air Force One crashed there. Kurt Russell made a new, less-Disney life for himself with the role, and I don't want to imagine what the movie would've been like if the studio had their way and cast Tommy Lee Jones.
Tony Montana -- Scarface (1983)
You wanna f*ck with me? Okay. You wanna play rough? Okay. Say hello to my little friend!
Long before I ever sat down and watched Scarface, I knew the lines. I knew about Tony Montana's little friend. Of all the men on this list, he is as much of the anti as an antihero can get. He sells drugs, berates women and kills people, but Tony Montana has become an icon. Heck, the DVD even includes "Origins of a Hip Hop Classic," with artists giving sugar to Al Pacino's Cuban refugee-turned-rich-drug-dealer. He did it up in style, but he did have some integrity -- knowing he was beyond saving, but still wanting more for his little sister.
Machete -- Grindhouse (2007)
This time... They f*cked with the wrong Mexican!
Okay, so I cheated and put a voice-over quote. But then again, Machete is so darned cool that he's made this list without even having a feature film...yet! Danny Trejo's new antihero became loved by the masses well before Grindhouse ever hit the screens. He's hired to take out a senator, but when he's double-crossed, Machete uses his knives and guns to get revenge. And where these other guys use guns the old-fashioned way, he sails through the air while his bullets fly.
Jason Dean -- Heathers (1989)
I can't believe you did it! I was teasing. I loved you. Course, I was coming up here to kill ya...
I usually try not to repeat movies too much in my Sevens, but J.D. needs to have a spot on this list. He was the antihero that reached beyond the action and geek audiences, making fans with men and women alike. His cause is partially noble -- he just wants to rid his school of the terrorizing, popular jerks so that the rest of the kids can live peacefully. Then again, he's ready to off pretty much everyone in his path, even Veronica, because "the only place different social types can genuinely get along with each other is in heaven." He's mad, but he's just so darned cool too...
Dwight -- Sin City (2005)
I'm Shellie's new boyfriend, and I'm out of my mind. If you so much as talk to her or even think her name, I'll cut you in ways that'll make you useless to a woman.
Most people cite Mickey Rourke's Marv when talking up Sin City antiheroes, but while Marv is great, Dwight's my guy. (And, obviously, reason for this list.) While he has his loyalties -- to his girlfriend Shellie and the girls of Old Towne -- he's not above bloodshed and cop killing. He's a bad guy with noble ideas, who slips into the realm of antihero with his uber cool ways and tough chatter. And for this time at least, Clive did it without a baby.