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Baddest, Manliest, Most Feared, On Screen Hitmen Of Our Time

26 August 2008 31 Comments

Ignoring the fact they kill people for a living, some of the most manly characters of our time are hitmen. They don’t have overwhelming manliness, but they are pretty freaking cool when you reflect on their roles.

Some are icons that are still in pop culture today, while others were meant for one-time appearances – only to be remembered for their legend. All have the stuff men love to watch on the big screen.

The criteria for the list is simple. You will find many famous hitmen (and some women) left off this list. As with every list-type post, there is always the obvious omission.

No women hitmen. I can’t think of one real life woman who I would be afraid of face to face. When I think of real life hitmen, Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, and anyone from Murder Inc. during the Capone days is front and center. This is definitely a man’s occupation. Nikita and Maggie Hayward (Point Of No Return) would have made the cut, but we are sticking with the men this time out.

Some manliness or redeeming value. These characters have to come with some manliness quotient we can talk about. It can’t just be about killing ALL the time. That would lead to falling short on the third criteria…

The movie can’t suck. Any hitman movie featuring Sylvester Stallone is off this list. He peaked during Rocky and First Blood (the first one). All his hitmen movies pretty much were crap. Also, if the hitman is just wasting people all over the place for no reason whatsoever, then the movie sucks and it also doesn’t meet the forth criteria…

Professionals only. Pro’s kill for cash or some other reason that seems worthwhile in a screwed up kinda way. Therefore, you will not see loose cannons on this list or guys who go around wasting people just to waste them – even though it may look like that at times. No, they always have a reason which makes them pro’s.

The reputation must precede them. This one is important. They need to be feared. When the other patsy’s in the flick hear their name, they pee their pants since they know they are about to get whacked. Luca Brasi would have made this list, but we never saw the guy waste anyone. Everyone knew though, that when Don Corleone sent Luca, you were finished.

On to the list.

15. Bill & The Bride (Kill Bill)

The Bride would have been on this list alone in not for the criteria. Uma Thurman wasted so many people in this movie, they’re still looking for the bodies. Bill, her mentor and father of her child, was so feared in this movie, they needed a special sword to kill him.

Where’s the manliness? Freaking David Carradine as Bill is where’s the manliness. The only thing the Kung Fu master didn’t do is live in this movie. He gets whacked by The Bride, rightfully so, in her quest to kill all those who killed her. She is the best assassin he ever trained and the student ended up taking out the teacher.

14. Jimmy “The Tulip” Tudeski (The Whole Nine Yards)

Bruce Willis, in all his roles, has this quality that puts him just a few seconds away from another brilliant comedic line. This flick is a comedy and hence Willis is at his best. He is feared, loathed, admired, rich, sought after, and downright neighborly as The Tulip. Besides, how cool is it to be nicknamed The Tulip?

Where’s the manliness? Jimmy wants to retire and settle down away from all the nonsense. In the end, instead of killing his wife, he let’s her live since she has fallen in love with Chandler Bing, I mean Oz (Mathew Perry). He also gives his ex-wife and Perry a bunch of cash to live their life in style as Jimmy has fallen in love as well.

13. Michael Sullivan Jr (Road To Perdition)

Any movie with Tom Hanks is manly. This guy is great and one of the best actors of our time to boot. After he’s betrayed by gangster family he works for, Michael completely starts wiping out the people that betrayed him. The family, the Rooney’s, want him dead, so Michael, out of revenge and self-preservation, kills every last person on his list. How did the Rooney’s betray him, they tried killing him and in the process killed his entire family, except for his little boy, Michael Jr. His little boy, by the way, has to see what his Dad does for a living as Michael Sr. goes about his business.

Where’s the Manliness? It becomes clear Michael knows that his line of work sucks. He has to kill people in front of his kid and try to explain why the rest of his family is now dead. He has regret for his actions, but knows he has to do whatever it takes to protect his remaining family. He will stop at nothing. He regrets every second of his profession as he watches his son watch him do his thing.

12. Martin Q. Blank (Gross Point Blank)

Near my hometown, Gross Point, Michigan is the setting for this comedy/drama. The movie is excellent, but not meant to be that believable. John Cusack as Martin Blank is a neurotic hit-man who spends all his time brooding about death, the meaning of life and the pointlessness of existence. He has all kinds of interesting quirks and mannerisms that make his endless stream of witty dialogue that much better. Tons of other big name people in the movie as well.

Where’s the manliness? John Cusack is epic in this film. He finally discovers how much he loves his high school sweetheart and tells her so – while saving her ridiculously stupid father in the process. Minnie Driver is also VERY hot in this flick. Her innocence just drives us men crazy while Blank goes about whacking people out of self preservation and for cash as needed.

11. Julian Noble (The Matador)

Pierce Brosnan is an excellent hitman. He doesn’t live anywhere, always hanging for a while in the place where he whacks his next victim. He only kills when paid and has all kinds of fun in the place where he does it. Brosnan is so freaking cool, you completely look past his character flaws and root for him every second of the way.

Where’s the manliness? Julian has guilt and regret. He wants out of the business so bad after wasting so many people that he literally breaks down in tears. By the end of the movie, he completely understands the importance of having a friend he can count on – that would do anything for him.

10. T-800 (The Terminator)

The Governator played in other movies that made him famous early on, like Conan The Barbarian, but this movie made him a megastar. His 12 lines in the first movie is all anyone could really take from him, but he needed no more. Arnold was made to play this role as a cyborg from the future brought back to kill John Conner. This movie has made it into our lexicon, our history and is a classic that will be viewed as such for years to come.

Where’s the manliness? It’s Arnold. Arnold is one the manliest guys in our time. He doesn’t care about what you think, he’ll just waste you if you don’t agree. In this movie, he’s the bad guy, but in the sequels, he shows he knows compassion while still kicking ass all along the way.

9. James Bond (Anything with Sean Connery)

The other Bond guys were good (especially Brosnan), but Connery is the original. I think there was another guy before him, but who cares. James Bond is still as popular today as back then. Daniel Craig reinvented the character and makes Bond look cool again after several years of pretty crappy Bond experiences. Connery was as elegant and cool as anyone who ever graced a movie set. He still is.

Where’s the manliness? Bond. James Bond. Name me another guy who could pull off sleeping with anyone he wanted, killing anyone he wanted, and still look as freaking good doing it as Connery did as James Bond.

8. Tony Montana (Scarface)

Before becoming the king of cocaine, Tony had to cut his teeth as a hired killer. He had to show the bosses he was worthwhile of their good graces by being as ruthless as anyone before him. Montana makes this list for two reasons: 1) Al Pacino; 2) the shower scene; and 3) “Say ello to my little friend”.

Where’s the manliness? Over the top manliness gets you nowhere in my book, but Tony Montana pulled it off. He was a slimy punk trying to make a name for himself by being as crude, obnoxious, and unprofessional as he could get. But he pulled it off. Did I mention Al Pacino?

7. Mr. Goodkat (Lucky Number Slevin)

Our only two-timer on this list, Bruce Willis is as cool as it gets. This movie is awesome with all kinds of twists and drama. You never know what is going to happen next and who is really the good guy or bad guy. The only thing you know is Mr. Goodkat is the baddest man alive and if he pays you a visit, it’s over. Willis played another hitman as The Jackal, but criteria #3 says the movie could not suck – so we had to keep this one off the list.

Where’s the manliness? Mr. Goodkat allows his backstabbing pupil, Josh Hartnett, to live at the end. He recognizes his pupil is in love and decides, even though Josh lied to him about her death, he has to let it go. Something that probably cost him his life in a sequel that will never get produced.

6. Vincent (Collateral)

Vincent, Tom Cruise, likes to do several hits in a single night, forcing a taxi driver to shuttle him around; then, at the end of the night, he’ll kill the cabbie and pin the murders on him, making his own killing spree look like it came from someone who simply lost it. The chauffeur, Max (Jamie Foxx), tries to save himself and the remaining names on Vincent’s to-do list.

Where’s the manliness? Vincent loves live Jazz and that is probably enough. Live jazz is a cornerstone to manliness. He also knows the importance of family with his unscheduled visit to Max’s ailing mother.

5. Leon (The Professional)

Leon is a complete loner. He is most skillful and deadly at what he does and his solitude is probably what makes him so professional. His solitude comes to an end, though, when he takes in the neighbor orphaned girl whose family was just wasted by corrupt cops. He reluctantly trains her to be a professional, which is pretty silly but still is OK, all the while knowing he is going to have to deal with the corrupt cops at some point.

Where’s the manliness? His one rule – “No women or children”. This alone keeps him the consummate professional at his job. He also shows amazing compassion by taking in the little girl that was sure to die at the hands of crazy.

4. Keyser Soze (The Usual Suspects)

Kevin Spacey turns in one of the best performances of his career. The most amazing twist we never saw coming in any movie, ever. The plot is believable and the directing really makes this movie an instant classic. The suspects turn gang of thieves all give great performances, but in the end, they were all brought together for the betterment of Keyser Soze. If a guy like this existed, we would never know about him.

Where’s the manliness? When Kujan, the DEA agent, realizes he’s been duped, it’s the most amazing feeling. I get chills just thinking of the brilliance of Spacey as he gets in the car and drives away at the end of the movie. Also, this movie delivers one of the greatest lines in all of film, “the greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” Instant manliness.

3. Jason Bourne (The Jason Bourne Trilogy)

These three movies are all about Matt Damon trying to find out who he really is. He gets amnesia after whacking all kinds of people as the greatest of all hitmen. Then goes on a self-preservation reign of terror to find out what he is. Action packed and full of drama, these movies will all be watched by our grandkids someday – all wanting to have those skills.

Where’s the manliness? There isn’t a guy around that doesn’t dream of having Bourne-like skills. He speaks about a dozen languages, knows everything there is to know about electronics, can kill you with his pinky, and has a conscious. What else could a guy ask for?

2. Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega (Pulp Fiction)

Probably the best of movie of all time. The directing and dialogue in this movie make it what it is. Witty, scary, insane scenes, tense situations, and diversion of timeline are all key aspects to its greatness. The two main characters (besides of course Willis, again) are hitmen. They show incredible humanness all throughout. Jules is trying to become a better person while Vincent is just well-read, intense, and loyal hitman. The predicaments they get themselves into and the characters that add to the drama are priceless.

Where’s the manliness? Jules and Vincent are both intellectuals. Vincent seems to have a penchant for the finer things in life and Jules is a philosopher. They both are consummate professionals and their dialogue with each other is second to none. The opening scene and closing scene are great indications of their intellectual depth along with their willingness to be men by telling the other one get f%#ked.

1. Anton Chigurh (No Country For Old Men)

Either you loved it or hated it. This was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. Anton is one of the best characters I’ve ever witnessed. The symbolism and depth of this seemingly simple plot is what makes it so strong. Chigurh is the ruthless hitman painfully trying to recover drug money for his employer. When his employer doesn’t trust him to do his job, he goes and whacks him too. The plot is a simple cat and mouse chase with twists and turns along the way, but it’s the acting and directing that make the simple chase as epic as one ever told.

Where’s the manliness? Chigurh is pure evil. He is emotionless and ruthless, yet he practices his craft with undeniable precision. He seems amused by human nature, but never allows it to get in the way of killing. His dedication to his profession is what makes him so enjoyable. As a way to allow people to escape his wrath, he allows a coin flip to determine their destiny. This is only when he doesn’t have to kill someone. If he does have to kill them, then no coin flip. His ability to show compassion is only left up to chance. This, by itself is not manly, but his character is so freaking cool, he had to be made number 1.


  • Hayden Tompkins said:

    Ok, mad props for the “Pulp Fiction” guys. Samuel L. Jackson gave me goosebumps everytime he started in on Ezekiel 25:17.

    Hayden Tompkinss last blog post..How to Recover Your Marriage

  • Bob Iger said:

    My favorite on this list is Leon (The Professional). This man is a sniper, and somehow I always respect men who can kill with a gun at a great distance.

  • Mike Bates said:

    Good gravy do I need to see No Country. It’s playing at a local theater this weekend, so I may just make the wife babysit for an afternoon while I finally catch it.

    It’s a great list, Kevin, but I want to shill for my boy Leon for a minute. He becomes a surrogate father, which is the ultimate manly act, isn’t it? He infiltrates a police station and rescues his “daughter.” And he takes out an entire SWAT team to save her. He may lose a couple points because his relationship with Natalie Portman seems a little sketchy, however.

    Does Ah-nold count as a hit-man? I mean, he’s awesome and all. But he’s not even technically human.

    Mike Batess last blog post..It’s How You Play the Game

  • Kevin (author) said:

    @Hayden – Pulp Fiction is the greatest.

    @Bob – Keyser Soze is a bogus #4 on this list. He is more of a legend/myth gangster than a hitman. It’s just that the movie was so cool and Keyser so legendary. I should have put Leon up there at #4 or even #3.

    @Mike – You’re right about the relationship. Seems a little sketchy. Arnold has to count. Come to think of it, I actually missed a very important hitman…The Predator…but that thing violated criteria 2, 4, and 5.

  • Rosie said:

    Arnold as the original Terminator was great. Robert Patrick as the Terminator 2 was even better.

  • Erasmus said:

    I’m pretty sure you missed Clint Eastwood in… oh, I don’t know… a whole bunch of films including the one where he was a hit-man, “Unforgiven”.


  • Kevin (author) said:

    @Rosie – Arnold is awesome.

    @Erasmus – Yup, I sure did. Clint Eastwood is one of those guys that I completely like to point out as great manliness. Missing him was a crime. What did you think of the rest? Any here that shouldn’t be? I struggled with Scarface, but the character is so iconic. Maybe that should be a different post on iconic, Cuban, cocaine mobsters. I could probably think of a dozen of those…

  • Erasmus said:

    All in all pretty good. But I would have to disagree with Tony Montana. I think you are letting the incredible manliness of Al Pacino taint your view of, as you put it, a punk. A freaky scary punk, but a punk none the less.

    Now if you want to keep Mr. Pacino, and I would, I suggest Michael Corleone. There you have character and class with the badassedness to have your enemies killed during your own child’s christening.


  • Kevin (author) said:

    Corleone was going to be on the list, but I already did a couple of posts on this great American classic.
    The Godfather
    The Godfather II

    This character might be the best character in American film – ever! I think I might do a post on best American film characters. He is number 1 or at least in the top 3.

  • Jackal said:

    You also forgot about James Woods in Best Seller, that movie is bad ass even though it was made in 1987.

  • Matt said:

    You are forgetting one of the best hitmen to ever grace the screen, and he was played by the incredibly manly Charles Bronson.

    The movie is called ‘The Mechanic’, which is a codeword for hired killer. Bronson’s character kills for the mob and has the son of a murdered man become his protege only to realise the up and coming hitman is planning to kill him. Bronson is all about the professionalism in this movie.

    I recommend anyone who thinks they have a pair check this movie out.

  • Matt said:

    Oh please, Anton Chigurh as No.1 ?
    Not only is the character completely farcial (carrying around a canister of compressed air, when he seemingly has ready access to silenced pistols, shotguns and rifles), but you’ve also seriously compromised your own criteria:

    The movie can’t suck:
    Meandering storyline, pathetic character development and a half finished script.
    Rarely have I seen a movie where the popcorn I’m eating has more substance, but NCFOM progresses like an oaf in a stupor, ie: nowhere.

    Some manliness or redeeming value
    Being pure evil isn’t manly. There is nothing of redeeming value with this character.
    If instead, we saw him unload a shotgun into the Cohen brothers that would have been redeeming .

    Professionals only.
    Where to start ? He kills based on a coin toss.
    Hmm, very professional.
    He kills everyone several policemen and civilians.
    Nice, no drawing attention there, very discreet. Good work all round.

    Unless you when you say ‘professional’, you actually mean ‘pychopatic’, Mr. Chigurh falls woefully short in his craft.

    On the plus side, the NCFOM DVD makes for an excellent 200m target for practising headshots.

    If we’re really talking about professional hitmen, where are Edward Fox (Day of the Jackal) and Michael Caine (Get Carter) ?

  • ts said:

    Hello what about antonio banderas as the mariachi?
    Wasn’t Jason Bourne an assassin not a hitman

  • Ares said:

    Murphy McManus and Connor McManus of boondock saints, Bullseye of Daredevil, and El Mariachi should have been included, and if you the el mariachi sucked the you suck.

  • Kristin Lee said:

    Bangkok Dangerous ! ! ! I love Cage to bits I love his style even lord of war. Something about killing for money is just so hot! I was a little upset when Cage shot himself in the end,thats pussy,but still awesome I guess a hard ass who’s also miserable is kind of sexy in a way and those sexy sniper aids he uses,click click,mmmm sweet and how he rids of all his disposables at the end of his job,beautiful.

  • Lewis_Fjord said:

    Jimmy Conway in Goodfellas
    Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas
    Nicky Santoro in Casino

  • Dan Donche said:

    Excellent list, I like stuff like this. Bruce Willis also played The Jackal.

    Dan Donches last blog post..New Breakthroughs

  • Kevin (author) said:

    Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, Anton is still #1. Matt, I’m feeling your comments and can deal with it, but Chugarh was a manly masterpiece – that character still occupies space in my subconscious. Agree to disagree, but respect your thoughts…

    The others I’ve missed were all worthy and I appreciate all of them. I could not have had freaking Willis on here 3 times with The Jackal – even though he was worthy. That was not a rule, but should have been.

    I still don’t know the difference between a hitmen and assassin. Bourne is on the list regardless of what he was…

    I do wish I put Eastwood on here somewhere. That was a major oversight.

  • e pearson said:

    The making of a truly good hitman is he has to have a very strict code of honor and be loyality to the craft but no kill women and children and have a lot of over the top shootouts and shootouts of a inumerable amount one of the best hitmen in the movies you forgot is chow yun fat in the movie Replacement Killers and jet li in the movie War and Nicholas cage in Bangkok Dangerous those are a good example of the true definition of what makes a good hitman movie lookup any of john woo movies and the art of heroic bloodshed.

  • Robert Real-Man R. said:

    I think that James Bond (especially if he is played by Sean Connery) should be a role model for any man. Just watch how he interacts with women.I think he is genial.
    I also have a list with my favorite “Bad Boy” movies. Take a look at it here: .
    .-= Robert Real-Man R.´s last blog ..
    Movies with real men =-.

  • noa ham said:

    Where is bobby lee swagger from shooter?

  • Acid Jazz CD said:

    great good…this publish warrants nothing 🙁 …hahaha just joking 😛 …nice publish 😛

  • Wolf said:

    Check out the Jackal from “The Day Of The Jackal”

    It’s the original that had a horrible remake “The Jackal”

    Also Leon VS Anton = Leon Pwning every time.

  • Jules said:

    I would agree with Pulp Fiction, awesome

    Also, there seemsto be some uncertainty within the comments. What is the difference between an assassin and a hitman? Also, I agree with Matt, no offence Kevin

    Its still a good list, I would hate to meet any of these people face to face

  • admin said:

    Jules – I agree…assassin or hitman has not been answered. I will need another post for this. Matt needs to try decaf. I respect his opinion and I hope he respected mine. His suggestions of who should have been on the list are good ones. May need another a Part II.

  • Business Letters said:

    For me, i believe that there is a women hitmen. Well,that’s what i believe.Thanks for sharing this article anyway.

  • juicyjay said:

    the best hitman was in this movie where he turned on his crew to save a little girls life. she was hiding in a cabinet while they tortured her father. when they found her this hitman decided to kill every one of his crew instead of letting her die. this dude never missed, one shot one kill. he was even shooting through the wall. it was an epic scene. but, i cant remember what the name of this movie is… any help is appreciated!

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  • tosh said:

    really…nobody mentioned Forest Whitaker – Ghost dog…. jim freaking jarmusch, he was a pretty unforgettable hit man.

  • Boyd said:

    very good list. Wouldve liked to see George Clooney from “The American” instead of maybe Jimmy the Tulip but all around pretty solid.

  • Boyd said:

    and if you DO make a list that includes women you can put Uma Thurman from Kill Bill on there AND Angelina Jolie from Wanted

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