The first and most important aspect of the badass is that he just doesn’t give a shit. The social concepts of right and wrong do not matter to him. All that matters to him is his own ambitions or his internal sense of justice. To us the badass can be the hero or the villain. From the badass’s POV there is no hero or villain. John McClane is not a badass because he does give a shit (also because he’s funny, the badass can be sardonic, but he doesn’t crack jokes; he’s too busy fucking you up to be funny.) When you are crossing a badass, the best you can hope to be is an obstacle. He will not see you as a person.
The second aspect of the badass is that you do not want to fuck with him. It’s one thing to say you don’t give a shit, another to back it up with bullets. This is also the reason the badass doesn’t say shit. He is not a braggart. He would rather be left alone, but still, if he is going to get in a fight, he’d rather you not realize what you’re up against until it’s too late
Finally what defines the badass is the circumstances he finds himself in. It’s only when his badassery is tested by an opponent or by circumstances that he goes from being simply a potential badass to an actual badass. This is why John McClane is on so many badass lists, despite not having a lot of the characteristics of a badass. The circumstances he pushes himself through are so spectacular that he earns points anyway. . The smaller the chance of victory, the more badass the character. George Clooney deciding “Fuck it. We’re going through the perfect storm” was a decision a badass would make.
1: Santonio Corleone… The Godfather
What puts Sonny on the list is not that he’s just extremely powerful. It’s not that, by being the heir to the Corleone Empire he is in constant danger. It’s that if you piss him of, he will forget about the powerful criminal network he can use to destroy you and just beat the living shit out of you. He still holds one of the greatest “oh shit” moments in cinema history when he hears his brother-in-law has been beating on his sister after he warned him not to and you just know Sonny is going to kill him with his bare hands. Also if you want to kill Sonny, you’re going to need like forty guys with machine guns… and even then, if he wasn’t wearing his seatbelt you probably would’ve been in trouble.
2: The Man with no Name… The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The fact that he doesn’t have a name is an old trick to making your character more badass. What sets “Blondie” the same basic character in some of the other movies in the Dollars trilogy and even Unforgiven, is that he is his ability to play his foes against their own natures, even when he’s on the verge of death. He only draws his pistol when it’s the most advantageous, never jumping the gun, almost as if the only reason he didn’t kill Tuco is that he didn’t want to waste the bullets. He has a stronger understanding of the word leverage than anyone, because there are only two types of men in this world: the ones with bullets and the ones who dig.
3: Bullet Tooth Tony… Snatch
Any motherfucker who takes a revolver full of bullets and then uses a sword to kill the guy who shot him is pretty fucking badass. When that same guy uses the bullets they dig out of his body to replace the teeth that were shot out of his mouth he becomes seriously badass. When he has nostalgic memories of the incident while he tortures the information he needs out of hipsters and wannabes he gets on my list.
4: Terry Tsurugi… The Streetfighter
One of the ultimate movie badasses from Grindhouse films, Sonny Chiba was Japan’s answer to Bruce Lee. When in the first thirty minutes of a movie he breaks a man out of jail, who is about to be executed for killing too many people in streetfights, by beating the shit out of him… and then kills the kid who hired him and sells his sister into prostitution because they can’t pay his fee… and starts some shit with the Yakuza (because fuck the Yakuza, that’s why)… you quickly realize that Japan’s answer to Bruce Lee is “Bruce Lee is a fucking pussy.” Props also need to go out to his totally badass nemesis; Terry rips his throat out in the first movie, only for him come back in the sequel as a mute with an ascot holding his windpipe together so he take a second shot at him.
5: Kyūzō… Seven Samurai
English speaking audiences including myself know him as “the badass one.” According to the other samurai he is the best swordsman, and for other samurai to admit inferiority, you know he’s got to be fucking crazy. He shows no sign of a personality other than being there to fuck you up. He’s not interested in wealth or fame, just the mission. When their strategist wishes they could get one of the bandits’ rifles he runs off into the forest and comes back with a rifle informing him curtly that two more were dead. Not to brag, but so he could factor it into his strategy. In a culture where everyone has two long names like Katsushiro Okamoto, this motherfuckers name is just Kyuzo. The only way to beat him is to shoot him in the back… and even then I think they got lucky.
John Creasy – Man on Fire
Ben Wade – 3:10 to Yuma
Chev Chelios - Crank
Mad Max – Mad Max Trilogy
Ashley J. Williams – Evil Dead Trilogy
Animal Mother – Full Metal Jacket
Jules Winnfield – Pulp Fiction
Joseph Wladislaw – The Dirty Dozen
John Preston – Equilibrium
John Rambo - Rambo