Fiction icons stimulate us and can often even inspire us. Film is a great medium to tell a narrative, is visceral, often surreal and sticks with you long after. You often remember a film because of its great storytelling pushed along but its great characters. Many such characters have been dark, masculine, and extremely Alpha. They get want they want and often don’t give a fuck how. The ends ALWAYS justify the means for them.
Even though we don’t wish to emulate their largely antisocial behaviors, we can learn a bit from watching these unusual men in action. Here are some of the finest examples of such characters within modern filmmaking. Yes, there are plenty more, and please give your thoughts on those in the comments section after the article. WARNING: SPOILERS!
Conan (Conan The Barbarian, 1982)
The Hyborean Age. As a young boy, Conan was taught by his didactic father the he could trust only his sword and nothing that breathes, and watches his village burn and his parents killed at the hands of snake cult leader Thulsa Doom and his raiding Vanir riders.
Sold into a youth of slavery grinding grain, then as a pit fighter pet as a young adult, Conan gets set free with only one goal in mind: revenge. Along the way he meets companions and is rather indifferent to them (he even abandons his woman without warning at one point), showcases an odd relationship with his god Crom, sheds no tears over the death of his woman, and after killing Thulsa Doom and his top brass sits down stone-faced and contemplative before burning down Thulsa Doom’s fortress and wandering the lands in search of more adventure.
Khan Noonien Singh (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, 1982)
Abandoned by a man he once trusted on a hostile planet, Khan and his loyal band of followers lie in wait for years before confronting Kirk and the crew of The Enterprise, and the hunt plays out in true Captain Ahab fashion in one of the greatest sequels in cinematic history (granted, the first film was quite the borefest as is).
Khan’s vengeance is not only to serve himself, but also his beloved and loyal crew members. With a cool demeanor and menacing glare, Khan plots and calculates like a bird of prey (pun intended? Perhaps!) to get his revenge, only to go out in a blaze of glory quoting Captain Ahab with his last few breaths. At least Spock served as collateral damage of sorts in the end.
Richard Kuklinski (The Iceman, 2013)
Poor Little Richard. Dubbing porn films actually shot on film (I bet some gems were in there!) for the mob, Richard displays sociopathic behavior on the regular and gets sucked into doing hits for the mob instead. His wife and two daughters are completely ignorant of his “extracurricular” activities.
As much of a loose cannon as he is, Richard puts family above all and wants them to have the best of everything, even a private school education! Cross Richie and it doesn’t matter who you are, you’re going down, fast. Mob boss, mob crony, competitive hitman, anytime, anywhere. An undercover sting operation catches Richie and he gets sentences to two life sentences, never seeing his family again and languishing in prison before dying suspiciously right before he was due to confess against the Gambinos. Makes you wonder…
Tony Montana (Scarface, 1983)
Tony came from rather humble beginnings as a refugee during the last decade of Communism’s yoke on half of the world, and at the nascent era of cocaine’s glitz and glamor in Miami. Keen on the art of survival and cunning like a fox, Tony worked his way from menial jobs to building a cartel empire that reached all throughout the Americas, often stomping on whoever got in his way.
His unwavering devotion to a rather naïve sister and misunderstanding mother show how important family is to him, and his cronies are well taken care of. Tony’s morals kick in when put on the spot to take out a group that includes a wife and children in a very “direct” way. In the end, Montana goes out in a fury of one-liners and a hail of bullets, standing his ground to the bitter end.
Lou Bloom (Nightcrawler, 2014)
A man without scruples, Lou is as sleazy as it gets. A wordsmith, a charmer, a fast talker, Lou’s only goals seems to be money, and whatever he can use as cannon fodder in the process will do just fine. Living in a less than friendly area of Los Angeles, Bloom has no hesitations about pillaging and plundering to advance his agenda.
Starting with a crappy second-hand camcorder, Lou chases bloody, newsworthy scenes and sells the footage for a substantial sum only he can settle for. His car gets nicer, he sacrifices his awkward assistant’s life for a few shots of a story about a pair of murderers on the run, and in the end has a full team with video production vans at his disposal.
Patrick Bateman (American Psycho, 2000)
The odd man of this list, Bateman is your typical Manhattan spoiled brat socialite but with inner demons he often isn’t shy to display. Being into “murders and decapitations” (a play on “mergers and acquisitions”), Bateman gallivants around The Capital of the World cavorting every which way and indulging in the finest and most expensive of everything under The Sun (legal or not).
In true OCD-fashion must have every item pristine, set a certain way, and has to one-up everybody else within earshot. Delivering some of the most memorable lines ever, Bateman’s slow descent into madness is shown in a very comical yet still jarring way. Yet in the end, it was all just in his head. The nightmare continues.
Daniel Plainview (There Will Be Blood, 2007)
Daniel is an opportunist, an oil prospector during California’s oil boom of the last century. A mishap in New Mexico is mitigated by news of a potential large deposit in California, and what a large deposit it is. Daniel slowly starts acting like a stereotypical oil tycoon, displaying megalomania and even threatening the lives of others if they dare say anything he can interpret as in insult.
He doesn’t hesitate to show his disdain for religion and mankind in general any opportunity he gets. Even his son isn’t spared his wrath, as he berates him and reveals to him that he was adopted and is glad he has none of his genes. The ending has the by now tiresome “I drink your milkshake” line of many stupid internet memes and a rather silly bowling alley sequence, and after Daniel throws one last tirade he sits down and simply tells his assistant “I’m done”.
Read More: 8 Films With Masculine Virtue