The 2017 summer movie slate might just be the least testosterone-addled in cinema history. Between the faux female-empowerment of Wonder Woman and Atomic Blonde, the enforced multiculturalism of The Fate of the Furious and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and the syrupy juvenilia of the tertiary Cars and Despicable Me installments, there hardly seems to be anything showing at the local multiplex catered towards the refined, adult sensibilities of male viewers. Indeed, outside of Dunkirk, I can’t think of a single movie coming out during the Memorial Day to Labor Day box office bonanza that’s catered towards the traditional, masculine, movie-going masses.
With such scant options at the nearest neighborhood cineplex, now is a most opportune time to revisit some of the greatest, XY-chromosome-centric celluloid classics of yesteryear. Instead of exposing your children to an effete, effeminate Spider-Man, Tom Cruise’s feigned attempts at displaying heteronormativity or identity politics-driven drivel like Detroit and The Dark Tower, why not treat them—and yourselves—to these manly movie masterpieces instead?
Thunder Road (1958)
You’ll never see a movie like Thunder Road again. Robert Mitchum’s cult classic is one of the greatest pro-masculinity movies ever, depicting a rugged individualist moonshiner fighting for his right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness against corrupt and crooked federal agents.
Devoid of nudity, vulgarities, graphic violence and on-the-nose progressive politics, Thunder Road simply tells the tale of a conflicted man following his conscience and standing up for his morals without demanding the audience agree lockstep with his own virtues. It’s one of the best action movies and character dramas of the 20th century and an absolute masterpiece of libertarian/classical liberalism cinema; you owe it to yourself to see it at least once.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
Featuring three of the manliest actors of all time—John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Lee Marvin—The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is largely considered one of the best Westerns ever filmed, and for good reason.
The Wayne/Stewart dichotomy presents an interesting portrait of manhood, demonstrating the necessity for the rugged, individualist persona and the more cultured, intellectual mentality. Few movies out there do as splendid a job depicting what makes a constructively-aggressive male leader and what separates them from destructively-aggressive male leaders; if you want to show your kids what real men look like, this is one you need to add to your library A.S.A.P.
The Dirty Dozen (1967)
Forget The Avengers, forget Justice League, and definitely forget Star Wars – no movie has ever had a greater ensemble cast than this World War II masterpiece. Starring a literal manly actor Hall of Fame roster—Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, George Kennedy and Kojak himself, Telly Savalas, make up just half the team—this exquisite action classic might just have more per capita testosterone than all of the Expendables movies combined.
While the concluding chateau siege sequence is undoubtedly one of the greatest finishes in movie history, what really makes The Dirty Dozen stand out is its character development; if you’re looking for a thrilling action movie with a smart script and top-notch acting, you won’t find many rivaling this outstanding late ‘60s offering.
Emperor of the North Pole (1973)
Here’s another great testosterone-enthused treat from director Robert Aldrich. Set during the Great Depression, Emperor of the North Pole (sometimes titled simply Emperor of the North in some prints) focuses on seasoned hobo Lee Marvin showing neophyte vagabond Keith Carradine the ins and outs of (illegally) hitching train rides.
Things take a turn for the worse when they decide to hop aboard a locomotive engineered by the psychotic Ernest Borgnine, who takes great pride in maintaining a stowaway-free operation – even if it means killing a few vagrants every now and then. The concluding knockdown, drag-out brawl between Marvin and Borgnine might just be the greatest fight in movie history – Lord knows, it’s definitely the manliest.
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
You really can’t talk about manly movies without talking about the manliest director of all-time, Sam Peckinpah, and this might just be his best (and most uncompromised) overall work. Starring the extremely-underrated Warren Oates, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia focuses on a U.S. military man who takes up a drug kingpin’s offer to decapitate the Mexican lothario who deflowered his daughter.
Of course, things go awry (no spoilers, but let’s just say a rape scene involving country music singer Kris Kristofferson plays a prominent plot point) and by the time our protagonist finally gets a hold of the titular noggin, he’s ready to embark upon the ultimate revenge fantasy road trip. There are a lot of great “vengeance is mine” movies out there, but as far as I’m concerned, none of them have surpassed this wild, woolly and unabashedly nihilistic action romp – it’s definitely triple A viewing fare for when you’re having a particularly bad week at the office.
Hard Times (1975)
Charles Bronson could rightly be considered the manliest actor of all-time, and this fairly obscure boxing flick from the mid-’70s is all the evidence you need. The iconic Death Wish star plays a Depression-era vagrant who is good at one thing and one thing only: bare-knuckle boxing other hobos. Enter sleazy boxing promoter James Coburn, who quickly turns old Chuck into a barn-storming, bum-pummeling sensation who makes a mint shellacking vagabonds all over New Orleans.
This movie is a firm reminder of just how great Hollywood action movies used to be before the plague of cultural Marxism infected the box office; with exquisite acting and some of the best pugilist scenes in movie history, Hard Times is a delightful, character-driven ass-kicker with both brains and brawn.
Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
Burt Reynolds was the last of the great, non-metrosexual movie stars who could actually act (sorry, Stallone and Arnold.) The great mustachioed one’s signature role comes in one of the best action-comedies ever filmed, a rollicking yet reverent ode to the American trucker and a celebration of every red-blooded man’s right to drink beer and drive as fast as they damn well please.
It’s also an aggressively libertarian film, rooted in an abhorrence of stupid federal regulations and even stupider local authorities. Plus, it’s the only time Sally Fields has ever actually looked hot in a movie, so it’s probably worth watching it for that facet alone.
More so than just about anybody else, George Lucas is responsible for the emasculation of American movies. The runaway success of Star Wars ensured Hollywood would abandon the rough and tough, reality-based star vehicles of the 1970s—The Sting, Taxi Driver, The French Connection, etc.—thus ushering in an age of family-friendly fantasy yarns and merchandising-tie-ins-disguised as movies like E.T. and Back to the Future. William Friedkin’s Sorcerer – which, as fate would have it, was released alongside the first Star Wars movie – shows us what mainstream moviemaking was like before the industry’s mass infantilization and demasculinization.
A taut, nuanced, sophisticated thriller starring Roy Scheider as a man tasked with transporting a super-explosive delivery across the rocky terrain of South America, Sorcerer is a simple yet extremely engrossing, character-driven classic – and further proof that Hollywood was much, much more entertaining when they stuck to crafting entertaining movies instead of finding ways to indoctrinate audiences with their progressive (regressive?) ideological convictions.
Blue Collar (1978)
Forget Grease and Saturday Night Fever, this is the film that embodied what the 1970s were really about. Richard Pryor turns in an astonishing, Academy Award-worthy dramatic performance as an auto worker caught up in a union conspiracy, with best pals Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto doing a fantastic job playing his partners-in-crime.
Moreover, it’s an excellent indictment of the times, showing how union greed, federal regulatory corruption and the degenerate vices of the American worker all came to a head to cause the spiritual death of America’s once-proud auto industry.
Rounding out the top ten is another movie helmed by Blue Collar director Paul Schrader. The nearly 40 year-old movie feels eerily prescient now, painting a bleak portrait of the end outcomes of second-wave feminism, free love and the post-Baby Boomer drug culture.
George C. Scott turns in perhaps the greatest performance of his elite Hollywood career playing a grieving Michigan father who slums his way through California’s grimy porn industry to rescue his daughter from the clutches of a sex trafficker.
The final 20 minutes of the movie are among the most depressing ever filmed, demonstrating exactly what happens when father figures are discounted as “patriarchal oppressors” and traditional family values are discarded for so-called “sexual liberation” idealism.