When we think of badass action heroes, we think of Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jason Stratham, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and other macho men who can take out 20 terrorists with a screwdriver and a slingshot. When we think of badass action heroes we think of guys who can get shot in three different times and make sarcastic remarks as they stitch up their own wounds with barbed wire. When we think of badass action heroes we think of guys that end up sleeping with not only the evil seductress, but also the equally hot heroine. And, when we think of badass action heroes we think of singing and dancing across the stage. No wait, that’s not right. To paraphrase Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own, “there’s no singing and dancing in action movies”. Maybe not, but you might be surprised how many of the biggest action heroes have also sang and danced their way across the stages of Broadway musicals.
10. Kevin Kline
Kline leapt into the saddle of the badass action movie hero in the role of bank robber turned reluctant hero Paden in the western Silverado. He also had the opportunity that every badass action hero dreams of, a gunfight. But not just any gunfight, an actual stand in the street, stare down the villain, wait for the music to reach a crescendo, then draw and fire gunfight. Spoiler alert – he won. He put on his spurs on again as US Marshall/Secret Service agent Artemus Gordon in Wild Wild West. This time he got to ride and fight alongside another badass action movie star, Will Smith. Smith was also involved in a Broadway musical, but only as a producer, so he didn’t qualify. Sorry Will. That’s not the case for Kline however. He not only starred in the Broadway musical, The Pirates of Penzance, but he also won a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical – one of five Tony award winners on this list.
9. Christian Slater
Slater started his badass action movie star status in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves playing wisecracking, but troubled, Will Scarlet. But he really came into his own as an action hero in Broken Arrow. Slater proved himself a true badass action movie hero by swinging Tarzan style into a boxcar and knocking pro football Hall of Famer Howie Long right through the opposite wall. He also had a chance to show off his boxing and martial arts skills. Not only that but he managed to outswim a nuclear bomb and also got the girl, after shooting between her legs to take out a bad guy (which sounds like it could be an innuendo for something sexual, but it wasn’t). In an interesting turn his nemesis in that movie also made this list (see entry number eight). But before he was kicking butt and taking numbers, Slater was a child actor on the Broadway stage. He appeared in several musicals including; Copperfield, Merlin and the coveted role of Winthrop Paroo in The Music Man.
8. John Travolta
John Travolta has played the badass villain in action movies probably more often than he has played the good guy (i.e. Broken Arrow, Pulp Fiction, Swordfish, etc.) and in one movie, Face/Off, he actually played both the badass good guy and the badass bad guy. But he has his badass hero moments as well. Besides his dual role in Face/Off, he was the ultra-cool badass shylock turned movie producer in Get Shorty and its sequel, Be Cool. He also voiced the title hero in the animated movie Bolt. It is probably no surprise that Travolta has performed in Broadway musicals. After all, one of his most memorable roles was as Danny Zuko in the movie adaptation of the musical Grease and recently he portrayed EdnaTurnblad in the movie version of Hairspray. The real surprise is that he only had fairly minor roles in both of the Broadway musicals he was in. He was in Grease on Broadway, but he didn’t play Zuko or Kenicke, but rather he played Doody (one of the Thunderbirds). He also had a minor role in the production of Over Here!
7. Daniel Radcliffe
Some may quibble at calling Harry Potter a badass action hero, but fighting and defeating Lord Voldemort single-handed is enough to qualify anyone as a badass. Plus, in doing so he also avenged his parents’ death which is another common thread for badass action heroes. On top of all that, he also ended up with the girl. So he’s good at magic, but can he sing and dance? Of course he can. As soon as the last Harry Potter movie was completed, Daniel discarded his wand and his glasses and moved onto the Broadway stage, starring in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. He received strong accolades, and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical.
6. Patrick Swayze
As a badass action movie hero, Swayze is probably best known for his role as the bouncer Dalton in Road House. But he also took on half the Russian army as Jed in the original Red Dawn and played Nomad in the post-apocalyptic movie Steel Dawn. Not to mention the anti-hero/surfing guru Bodhi in Point Break. These roles and many more cement Swayze’s badass status. Of course we all know that Swayze can dance, unless you somehow missed Dirty Dancing. In fact he started out as a ballet dancer. But Swayze also did time on Broadway, performing in such musicals and Grease, Goodtime Charley and Chicago. Sadly, Swayze passed away in 2009 after a two year battle with pancreatic cancer.
5. Yul Brynner
While Yul Brynner is probably best known for his Broadway musical role first and his movie roles second, he easily meets the qualifications for this list. As the quintessential gun slinger in the quintessential western – The Magnificent Seven (and its sequel, The Return of the Seven) he was the master of the steely-eyed stare. He also parodied that role as a bad guy/robot in West World (as well as its sequel, Futureworld). He threw in another badass action movie hero role in The Ultimate Warrior. In fact he was so badass in that movie that at one point he cut off his own hand and still managed to kill all the bad guys. Of course his most famous role was King Mongkut in the Broadway musical The King and I – which won him a Tony award. Truth be told, Brynner played a badass in the King and I as well. Nobody messed with him (except maybe Anna). He even purposed to send elephants to President Lincoln to help in the Civil War. Sometimes you can be a badass even while you’re singing and dancing.
4. Alan Cumming
Alan Cumming may not be the first name you think of when it comes to badass action heroes, but his scene in X2 when he takes out almost the entire Secret Service by himself is more than enough for him to make the list. He also played the ever-returning bad guy, Fegan Floop in the three Spy Kids movies. But Cumming also has a musical side. He played the master of ceremonies in the 1998 Broadway revival of Cabaret for which he won a Tony Award. He will also be reviving that role on Broadway in April of 2014. He also starred as Macheath (the namesake badass in the Bobby Darin song, Mack the Knife) in The Three Penny Opera.
3. Mandy Patinkin
“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”. This may have been Mandy Patinkin’s only real badass action movie hero role, but what a role! As the troubled swordsman looking to avenge his father’s death at the hands of the six-fingered man, Patinkin truly created one of the most unforgettable action movie heroes. His sword fight with The Man in Black (played by Cary Elwes) is arguably the best in cinema history. His casual dispatching of Count Rugen’s guards is classic. And to top it off, even with a dagger wound in his stomach and sword wounds in both arms, he grits his teeth and delivers his classic line over and over before skewering his father’s killer and exacting his revenge. But Mandy Patinkin is also an accomplished singer and has released several albums. He also won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for the Broadway revival of Evita. He was also nominated for two more Tony awards for his performance in the musicals The Wild Party and Sunday in the Park with George.
2. Antonio Banderas
The list of the badass action movie heroes played by Antonio Banderas is too long to show here. From the enigmatic El Mariachi in Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, to Zorro (and his feline counterpart – Puss In Boots) to Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan in The 13th Warrior, Banderas has done it all. His characters have been shot, stabbed, burned, thrown off trains and he just keeps on going. He also inevitably gets the girl, saves the day and rides off into the sunset to fight again. And if that weren’t enough, he will soon be joining a veritable class reunion of badass action movie heroes in the upcoming The Expendables 3. But he is also a Broadway hoofer and singer. He was nominated for a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance in Nine and won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a musical.
1. Hugh Jackman
Let’s face it, nobody is a bigger badass action movie hero than Wolverine. With his adamantium claws, his quick temper and his cool leather jacket, he is the ultimate hero/anti-hero. He’s so badass that when he gets shot, stabbed, folded or spindled, he just heals himself up and keeps on slashing the bad guys. In his latest movie, The Wolverine, Jackman takes on an entire army of ninjas and still comes out on top. Badass doesn’t get any better than that. In addition to playing Wolverine in six movies (with two more on the way), he also played badass vampire hunter Gabriel Van Helsing where he took on Dracula, The Wolfman, Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein’s Monster all in the same movie.
But, even before he became the badass action movie hero we all know and love, he was singing and dancing as the lead in the Royal National Theatre’s production of Oklahoma! on London’s West End. Imagine Brian Singer (the director of X-Men) watching Jackman singing “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” and saying to himself, “that’s the guy that can kick Magneto’s butt”. Okay, it probably didn’t happen that way, but Jackman did go straight from Oklahoma! to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. But what about Broadway? In between the X-men and Van Helsing, Jackman starred in the Broadway production of The Boy from Oz for which he won a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical. He then went on to win an Emmy for hosting the 2004 Tony Awards. To top off the musical trifecta, Jackman was also nominated for a Best Actor Oscar in 2012 for his performance as Jean Valjean in the movie version of the musical Les Miserables.
Honorable Mention – Bruce Lee
Just saying the name Bruce Lee will make your mind jump into badass mode. Even though he only made a handful of movies, he is forever linked to the action movie hero. While he never stepped on a Broadway stage, most people may not know that in addition to kicking major ass in the movies, Bruce Lee was also the 1958 Cha Cha Dance Champion of Hong Kong. That’s right, the man who used his feet to loosen the teeth of all those movie bad guys also was a champion dancer. And just to link the dancing with some singing, Lee’s father, Lee Hoi-chuen was a famous Cantonese opera star.
Michael Young was born and raised in Iowa. He inherited his love of movies and Broadway musicals from his parents. He has been a school teacher, insurance underwriter and the manager of a movie theater. He is currently working on his Master’s Degree in Social Work at the University of Iowa.