Here's a list of manly movies prepared by the super brains over at The Art of Manliness. You don't have to agree with them all, but you can't argue with most.
This group of Allied POWS fought the enemy the best way they could – by bustin’ out of prison. Based on a true story, the film has been hailed as one the greatest escape movies of all time. Despite its length (172 minutes), the movie maintains interest through the engaging relationships of the prisoners. Each individual contributes their skills and personality to the effort, even the self-interested American (played by Steve McQueen). I guess his skill would be making killer motorcycle chase scenes.
Best line: “I’m going… out.”
Based loosely on the real lives of Western outlaws Robert Leroy Parker (aka Butch Cassidy) and Harry Longabaugh (aka the Sundance Kid), Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid is a classic movie about two buddies trying to make it in a changing world. What’s funny aboutButch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is that you forget that these guys were hardened criminals who robbed banks and trains for a living. The easy going charm Robert Redford and Paul Newman bring to their roles makes you like the characters despite their choice of profession. Their clever hijinks and humor make the movie an enjoyable ride.
Best line: “Boy, I got vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals.”
Cops that won’t let anything – even the law – stand in their way of catching the bad guy may have become a Hollywood cliché, but when Dirty Harry first pulled out his .44 magnum it was a brand new story. Harry Callahan stops at nothing as he hunts down the Scorpio, a serial killer that picks people off with a sniper rifle. The plot isn’t bad, but it’s Clint Eastwood that drives the entire picture. His rebel good- guy cop set a high mark for others to try and follow.
Best line: “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”
Working 60 hours a week sucks. I mean, it really sucks. The idea of travelling around the world to exotic spots with the simple objective of surfing every chance you get is about the most enticing thing on the planet. In step Mike Hynson and Robert August. Famed documentary director Bruce Brown follows the pair around the world as they chase the summer and whatever waves they can ride. If you can’t surf, or you can’t take the time off work to surf – live vicariously through this movie.
This movie is great for many reasons – of which, I cite two: 1) Kevin Costner can actually play baseball, instead of looking like a moron as do many other actors trying to swing a bat. 2) Tim Robbins character wears lingerie when he pitches – which is completely classic. Besides these, there are many other elements that make the movie relevant: the mentor/mentee, the old vs. the young, fighting for the woman, baseball. But ultimately it’s about a bunch of guys trying to make their mark on life – which we can all certainly relate to.
Best line: “Charlie, here comes the deuce. And when you speak of me, speak well.”
Do nice guys always finish last? Not necessarily. The Apartment is a true gem of a movie that doesn’t seem get the attention it deserves. Both dramatic and funny, the film is a dark comedy about a corporate drone who finally gets tired of being constantly walked on, mans up, and becomes a mensch. Things don’t always work out when you do the right thing, but sometimes they do.
Best line: “Shut up and deal.”
Nobody wants to die alone. Especially gunslingers. In a haunting portrayal that foreshadowed his own fate, John Wayne plays J.B. Brooks, an aging gunfighter dying of cancer who resigns himself to live out his days in private. But skeletons from his past prevent him from fading away, so he decides to go down the only way he knows – with his six gun blazing.
Best line: “I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a-hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.”
At its core, Hoosiers is about redemption – basketball is just the vehicle. The story revolves around a basketball coach that has fallen from grace and finds himself at a small rural town in Indiana. He ruffles feathers and fights to earn the respect of his players, the town, and a doubtful teacher. The team chases glory, while others in the town remember what it is like to win. Not only is it one of the most inspiring movies of all time, it has one of the most hardcore stoics in all of sport movie history. Jimmy = Clutch.
Best line: “You know, most people would kill… to be treated like a god, just for a few moments.”
This movie set the standard for war epics of the modern era. Few are its equal. A Mohican father and his son, along with their adopted son, attempt to maintain their neutrality amidst the French-Indian War in colonial America. The men are pulled into the fray after rescuing two daughters of a British Officer during a skirmish and escorting them to their father’s fort. As the impending battle builds around them, the men remain devoted to the daughters, going to great lengths to preserve them. From the opening sequence of Uncas and Hawkeye sprinting through the dense forest, to the final scene on the promontory, the movie is gripping and powerful. Additionally, they play lacrosse in this movie – that fact alone secured its place on this list.
Best line: “Someday I think you and I are going to have a serious disagreement.”
An Italian Neo-Realist classic, The Bicycle Thief tells the bleak story of a man in impoverished post-war Italy whose bicycle, which he needs to work, is stolen. Father and son hunt all over Rome to find the bike, with no one to help them and ultimately no success. And thus the father is faced with a classic philosophical problem: is it okay to steal to feed your family? Realistic and honest, this movie provides one of the best glimpses into the nature of the father/son relationship.
Best line: “Why should I kill myself worrying when I’ll end up just as dead?”
To what lengths would a person go for a chance at reconciliation? If it is for your (dead) father, most of us would do anything. Field of Dreams is Ray Kinsellas’s journey of reparation with his father. Ray, an Iowa farmer, erects a baseball field in his cornfield after a voice tells him, “If you build it, he will come.” The voice continues, and after a series of mysterious and supernatural events, he is able to make amends. It is quite possible that a game of catch can heal most wounds between a father and son – even death, I suppose.
Best line: “If you build it, he will come.”
Starring dapper dude, Cary Grant, North by Northwest is classic Alfred Hitchcock. Grant plays a hapless New York advertising executive mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies, and is pursued across the country while he looks for a way to survive. The problem is the government thinks he’s a spy, too, and they’re on the chase as well. Talk about a bad day.
Best line: “I don’t like the way Teddy Roosevelt is looking at me.”
The film adaption of SE Hinton’s famous novel perfectly captures the tumultuous nature of teenage angst. The well-to-do Socs and blue collar Greasers hate each other’s guts, and when Johnny the Greaser kills a Soc, a series of dramatic and tragic events are set in motion, including an old fashioned rumble. The film is a star-studded affair, filled with the likes of Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio, and Diane Lane, many before they were household names. And best of all, it was shot on location in my home city of Tulsa.
Best line: “Stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold.”
First Blood (Rambo)
The more weighty issues in First Blood are usually overshadowed by the gratuitous action. Understandably so, but the movie is built on Rambo’s struggle to return to society after the Vietnam War. A Medal of Honor recipient, Rambo is kicked out of a small town and then arrested for vagrancy. The sheriff and his deputies go overboard with torture and Rambo reverts back to what he does best. Nothing good can come from pissing off a guy named Rambo.
Best line: “They drew first blood, not me.”
A Cold War classic starring Frank Sinatra in probably his best movie performance. The film was so controversial that it was banned from further release after JFK’s assassination. TheManchurian Candidate focuses on the way in which propaganda and the manufacture of political views can influence one’s perception and behavior in the most provocative of ways. The story follows several former Korean War soldiers who have been brainwashed by the military. Follow them as they try to unravel the source of the reoccurring nightmares. A real thriller. Don’t bother with the Denzel Washington version. The original is still the best.
Best line: “There are two kinds of people in this world: Those that enter a room and turn the television set on, and those that enter a room and turn the television set off.”Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), a respected detective from up North, is thrown into a murder investigation in the small town of Sparta, Mississippi. While he initially doesn’t want any part of the case, Tibbs exemplifies manly resolve as he sticks around, staring down bigot after bigot while searching for the murderer. The film is famous for a scene in which Tibbs, after being slapped by a white man, slaps him right back. The screenplay originally called for Poitier to simply take it, but the actor found this passive response degrading and insisted he be allowed to hit back. That my friends, is being a man. You slap me in the face, I’ll slap you right back, Sucka.
Best line: “They call me MISTER Tibbs!”
A quiet gunslinger who is trying to escape his past befriends a pioneer family that has settled out west. He attempts to settle down and become a hired hand to the family, but the ranchers who want to drive cattle through the homesteaders’ property are attempting to drive them out. Shane tries to stay out of the disputes, but keeps being drawn in and is finally compelled to put his six shooter back on to protect his adoptive family. Perhaps the most touching part of the movie is the relationship Shane develops with the farmer’s son.
Best line: “A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.”
Perhaps the greatest American contribution to the film noir style, Double Indemnity is dark rumination on greed, manipulation, and betrayal. Barbara Stanwyck plays a classic femme fatale who uses her womanly wiles to lure insurance salesman Walter Neff into a plan to kill her husband for the “double indemnity” payout. But Neff is not a guileless victim after all. Palatable tension, suspense, and snappy dialogue make this film a true classic.
Best line: “How could I have known that murder could sometimes smell like honeysuckle?”
Politics of euthanasia aside, living is so much more than just breathing. Based on the life of Ramón Sampedro, the movie examines the fight to end his own life after 30 years of being paralyzed from the neck down. Despite his desire to end his life, through his courage and self awareness, he inspired others to embrace their own.
The Maltese Falcon is filled with ambiguities in morality. Sam Spade, played by Humphrey Bogart, is a hardened and cynical man. But underneath his rough exterior is a man with a sense of idealism. Spade lives by a code of honor that doesn’t let him take the corrupt and easy solution to life’s problems. The Maltese Falcon forces us to answer a simple question: when push comes to shove, will we stick to our own code of honor or will we sell out?
Best line: “[It's the] stuff that dreams are made of.”
Das Boot puts you inside a stranded and submered German U-Boat and explores the physical and emotional tensions of the situation with a vivid, terrifying realism. Holding it all together, under harrowing conditions, is a single man. The captain is a scruffy, mildly cynical, bastion of strength. He deals calmly with almost any situation, drawing on a seemingly unlimited store of courage.
Best line: “You have to have good men. Good men, all of them.”
Star Wars (The Original Trilogy)
The reason Star Wars became a cultural phenomenon wasn’t because of the special effects. It was the story. Star Wars simply put a futuristic spin on the archetypal story of heroic good vs. evil that men have been telling around fires for millennia. Stick with the original trilogy. They’re still the best. Mainly because manly man Han Solo is in it. If CGI effects was all it took to make a good movie, then we would have all loved Jar Jar Binks.
Best line: “I am your father.”
Rudy, a scrappy blue collar kid, has a dream of playing football with the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. While Rudy wasn’t blessed with the talent or the body to be a star athlete, he’s a got a lot of heart and determination. When you’re feeling like the underdog in life, just plop down and watch Rudy. You’ll be ready to “Play Like a Champion” afterwards.
Best Line: “You’re 5 foot nothin’, 100 and nothin’, and you have barely a speck of athletic ability. And you hung in there with the best college football players in the land for 2 years. And you’re gonna walk outta here with a degree from the University of Notre Dame. In this life, you don’t have to prove nothin’ to nobody but yourself. And after what you’ve gone through, if you haven’t done that by now, it ain’t gonna never happen. Now go on back.”
High Noon is film about being torn between duty, love and standing up for what you believe in, even when everyone else abandons you. Gary Cooper plays Will Kane, a town marshal from New Mexico, who settles down with his pacifist Quaker wife (played by Grace Kelly, one of yourgrandpa’s babes). Kane plans to retire to a peaceful life are interrupted after he gets word that a former gunslinger is coming in on the noon train to settle an old score with him. His wife pleads with him to leave town, but Kane knows he can’t. He has a duty to defend the town and his honor. Will finds himself alone in the battle as everyone in town, including his deputy sheriff, have turned away from him. The tension builds, leading up to the final gun battle.
Best line: “Don’t shove me Harv. I’m tired of being shoved.”
It is impossible to capture the life of any man in one film, much less the life of a man who saw and did as much as Mahatma Gandhi. Thus the filmmakers who tried to capture his life on the silver screen sought not to give a blow by blow account of Gandhi’s life, but instead to capture his spirit in what they did show. The film begins with Gandhi’s assassination and then starts the retrospective of his life, beginning with his being thrown off a train for being Indian, and through his non-violent efforts to win Indians their rights and then their independence. One man truly can free an entire nation, if not change the entire world.
Best line: “They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me, then they will have my dead body. NOT MY OBEDIENCE!”
When people think about James Dean, they typically picture him in his role in Rebel Without a Cause. Even though it’s over 50 years old, Rebel Without a Cause still captures the feelings of modern teenage angst: nervous, confused, and feeling lost in a world that is changing. James Dean plays Jim Stark, a juvenile delinquent who moves into a new town. Jim clashes with other teenagers and his parents, whom he feels simply don’t understand him. The movie often points a finger at weak or absent fathers as the cause of teenage rebellion. Jim father’s always backs down to his wife when they argue, leading Jim to ask, “”What do you do when you have to be a man?”
Best line: “You’re tearing me apart!”
The French Connection is based on the true story of the Turmanio Case- a large heroine smuggling ring that linked the New York mob with a French mob in Marseilles. Two NYC cops busted the ring using tactics that were morally and ethically questionable. In The French Connection, the names have been changed, but the overall story stays the same. Legendary actor Gene Hackman plays Popeye Doyle, a ruthless cop who’ll do anything, legal or not, to get the job done: wiretaps, shakedowns, theft distribution of heroin to informants, extortion. You get the idea. The French Connection is thus a Machiavellian film. It forces the viewer to ask themselves if the ends really do justify the means, even if the end is noble. Oh, and a porkpie hat never looked so bad ass on a man as it does on Gene Hackman in this film.
Best line: “All right, Popeye’s here!”
Filled with iconic scenes and memorable (but often misquoted) lines, Casablanca is a love story that you can watch with your girlfriend, while still feeling manly because it has Humphrey Bogart in it. Bogart plays Rick Blaine, a bitter American ex-patriate living in Casablanca during World War II. One day his old flame and the woman who turned him cynical, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) walks into his club with her husband. An awkward and tense love triangle commences. In the end Blaine has a decision that many men face in their life: get what you want or sacrifice for the greater cause.
Best line: “Here’s looking at you kid.”
Cinema often glorifies the Old West as a mythic time when good guys wore white and the bad ones wore black. In Unforgiven, director/actor/producer Clint Eastwood shines a light on the dark, violent, and morally ambiguous aspects of life in frontier America. Clint Eastwood plays William Munny, a once notorious and violent killer. Now, he’s just a quiet and tired farmer who is a devoted father still mourning his dead wife. But Will’s old life comes back to haunt him when he’s asked to do a hit on a cowboy who slashed the face of a prostitute. Will is transplanted from his farm in Kansas to a town in Wyoming where he meets Sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman), a mean son-of-a-bitch who is determined to not let the hit go down, no matter what it takes. Hold onto your hats, partners. This isn’t your grandpa’s Western.
Best line: “Hell of a thing, killing a man. You take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.”
Animated films often don’t have much to offer a man, packed as they are with zany animal sidekicks and pop culture humor. But The Iron Giant is not so much an animated film as it is a film that happens to be animated. It’s a beautifully drawn, intelligent, and thoughtful film in which a giant robot falls from space and is befriended and taken care of by a boy. It’s 1957, and Cold War paranoia is running high, making the robot a target of government suspicion. I won’t give the ending away, but the story is an emotional tale about doing the right thing and sacrifice. A real masterpiece.
Best line: “You are what you choose to be. You choose. Choose.”
General Maximus Decimus Meridius represents all that is good in a man. He loved his family, he loved his country, he knew how to lead, and he kicked some serious ass. This movie has everything a man would want in a flim: epic battle scenes involving huge swords and a protagonist who is fighting for what is right. If you ever need a film to pump you up for something, watch Gladiator.
Best line: “What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”
Jimmy Stewart plays a small town scoutmaster named Jefferson Smith who is picked to fill an empty U.S. Senate seat. The scheming politicians and party boss who foisted this office on Mr. Smith had plans to control this naive country bumpkin as a cog in their political machine. Little did they know, they picked a man filled with integrity, honor, and ideals. The filibusterer scene is classic. Mr. Smith spoke for 23 hours straight, beseeching his fellow Congressman to listen to their consciences, only to faint out of exhaustion at the end. Hokey? Maybe a bit. But in a world where corporate and political corruption runs rampant, men like Mr. Smith can inspire all men everywhere to stand up for what is right.
Best line: “Because of just one, plain, simple rule: Love thy neighbor. And in this world today, full of hatred, a man who knows that one rule has a great trust. You know that rule, Mr. Paine, and I loved you for it, just as my father did. And you know that you fight for the lost causes harder than for any others. Yes, you even die for them, like a man we both knew, Mr. Paine.”
A brash young pool shark named Fast Eddie (Paul Newman) sets his sights on defeating one of the game’s greatest players–Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). But getting up on Fats isn’t enough. He wants to crush his opponent. Eddie’s relentless drive eventually becomes his undoing as his winning streak turns to defeat. But Fast Eddie is tenacious. He musters up some more cash and challenges Minnesota Fats again. The Hustler is about more than pool. It’s about winning and losing, greed, self-respect, and redemption.
Best line: “You know, this is my table, man. I own it.”
During the time of Prohibition, when it seemed the whole country could be bought and sold by ganglords, a small group of men stood firm and fought the storm that raged around them. The movie follows Eliot Ness, a U.S. Treasury Agent, and his group of hand picked men that brought down the infamous mob boss, Al Capone. Sean Connery is perfect as Jim Malone, the gritty Irish street cop who taught us never to bring a knife to a gun fight.
Best line: You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. *That’s* the *Chicago* way!
Based on John Steinbeck’s famous novel, The Grapes of Wrath follows a group of “Okies” during the Great Depression on their westward trip to a California in search of a better life. Henry Fonda plays the story’s main protagonist, Tom Joad, a man who has to hold his family together as the high hopes they began the journey with collide with a far colder reality. The film softened Steinbeck’s political overtones and gave the story a more hopeful ending, yet it’s still a movie of real thought-provoking substance.
Best Line: “I’ll be all around in the dark – I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look – wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build – I’ll be there, too.”Steve McQueen is the man and Bullitt puts his rugged manliness on full display. The film is raw and edgy and changed the way detective movies were made in Hollywood. The best thing about this movie? The epic car chase scene through the streets of San Francisco. It was and still is the best car chase scene in film history. A 390 GT Mustang never looked so good.
Best line: “You work your side of the street and I’ll work mine.”
Although we remember World War II as “the good war”, the one where the soldiers didn’t complain much about the hell they went through, GI’s from the Big One had the same rough time transitioning back to home life that all soldiers did and do. And The Best Years of Our Lives is a rare movie that honestly captures that experience. The film follows 3 servicemen who hitch a ride together back to the same town. Each has a very different life he is coming home to, and each has their own struggles to fit back into that life.
Best line: “You know, I had a dream. I dreamt I was home. I’ve had that same dream hundreds of times before. This time, I wanted to find out if it’s really true. Am I really home?”
With believable characters and deft touches of humor supplementing the blow em up plot, Die Hard reigns as one of the greatest action films of all time. John McClane, played by Bruce Willis, is an off-duty cop who gets caught up in a fight when sophisticated bank robbers crash his wife’s company Christmas party. He picks them off one by one, and even survives their attempt to blow up the building. I’d hate to see what John McClane would have done if he had his shoes on.
Best line: “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…”
An underground martial arts tournament, drugs, prostitutes, revenge, some sick Kung Fu, mirrors – is there anything this movie doesn’t have? The first Kung Fu flick to come out of Hollywood was, sadly, the final one from Bruce Lee. Hailed as one of the most financially profitable films of all time, Enter the Dragon capitalized on the insane ability of one of martial arts’ prodigies. The story follows Lee on a journey to avenge his sister’s death and bring honor back to his master and Shaolin Temple. Throw in a secret island, some hookers, maybe a little international espionage and… let’s face it, we don’t really watch these kinds of movies for the plot. Bruce Lee is ridiculously awesome and that’s all I really need to say.
Best line: “Don’t think. FEEL. It is like a finger pointing away to the moon. Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.”Best line: “A man curses because he doesn’t have the words to say what’s on his mind.”
American culture has unfortunately and simplistically rendered the history of the civil rights movement as a battle between Martin Luther King Jr., the good guy who got it right, and Malcolm X, the bad guy who got it wrong. The story is of course much more complicated, as is Malcolm X himself. You owe it to yourself to get a fuller picture of the man by reading his autobiography, and watching this film which also goes a long way in showing both his faults and his too often forgotten virtues.