For a time, it seemed as though the action genre was something of a lost cause - with a heavy reliance on big set-pieces and CGI over decent characters, writing, and stunt choreography, the days of, as Nick Frost’s Sgt. Danny Butterman puts it in Hot Fuzz, “gunfights, car chases, proper action and shit” seemed to be long gone. But a recent resurgence of choreography and practical effect-focused action films, like John Wick, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Atomic Blonde have given the genre new life, reminding the world of just what a great action film can be - and how crucial it is to have a badass lead character.
While many small screen characters are deserving of recognition, the best and most badass characters come from the movies. However, while any action star can fight their way through a dozen bad guys, spout a one-liner, and save the day, they can still not be a badass. So what is the je ne sais quoi that elevates these characters over the thousands of other action heroes to have graced the screen? It’s definitely something you know when you see it, but it's not easy to put into words.
As the legendary Jackie Chan put it, “I'm not just an action star, I'm an actor.” The key to making a character truly badass is to make them a character first, with a real emotional arc, and a badass second. While their motivations might be wildly different, ranging from saving a loved one to getting revenge to protecting the world at large, cinema’s coolest badasses are united in their unwillingness to compromise for what they’re fighting for and the awesome ways in which they fight for it, and we're just lucky enough to be along for the ride. Here's our list of the 25 most badass movie characters in history.