The Manliest Names in Film
Battle of the Damned comes out tomorrow! And if that’s not one of the most badass titles ever, it stars one of the most real-life badass actors, Dolph Lundgren, as the even more impossibly badass Max Gatling. Let’s see how he ranks with other badass manly names in TV & movies. And don’t forget to check out the most ridiculously men’s names in reality!
The action hero is the most obvious archetype of masculinity, but merely incarnating the attitude of “explosions as universal panacea” isn’t enough for some characters. They need names announcing their intention to end everything that isn’t them. Because when a character’s To Do list includes “nuclear warheads” they think subtlety is a politely English, non-alcoholic drink.
The Man Makes The Name
Bruce Campbell turned Ashley J. Williams into six syllables of indestructible everyman, the blue collar plowing through everything the world can throw at him, and not washing out the bloodstains before getting back to work. A man for whom the loss of a hand wasn’t a problem but an opportunity, and who uses the right tool for the right job even when that job is a discussion of Manichean morality.
As ass-kicking as the name has become, its construction is anything but. Ashley leaves him open to impolite inquiries about his gender (though that’s just a useful way of detecting @$$#()!%$ before they consume too much time), while Williams is so everyman people feel compelled to include the full first name and initial every single time they refer to him just so people know who they’re talking about.
Burn Notice bestowed a more badass name with Sam Axe, Hawaiian-shirted ex-intelligence agent and current-intelligent asskicker. This man’s main abilities were chilling with mojitos, advanced punching, and always knowing a guy. Assuming you needed that guy to leak protected information from national intelligence services just because “hanging out with Bruce Campbell” is a cool enough reason to do anything, even in fiction. The Sam Axe sobriquet is the perfect combination of chilled guy, effective tool, and thing that could totally kill you. And so popular he got his own prequel movie, “The Fall of Sam Axe”. Even when things go wrong for him it sounds like a medieval execution.
Commander Marshall Lawson
“Pun” Is Allowed When It’s Part Of Punching
Steven Seagal is Commander Marshall Lawson in Attack Force, and that’s not a description, that’s an invocation to shrug off this wimpy world and enter a dimension where human life is based on the oxidation of napalm instead of nucleoside triphosphates.
This is an action movie star who started Above The Law and went fist-first in every conceivable direction from there. More over the top, more below any kind of release quality you might have expected, and insane sideways jaunts into spiritual music, reality television, and anything else which would let him be on a screen. But he never really escaped that first violent fame, which is how you end up as a character not only based on but actually named after the idea of violencing people until they do what you tell them.
Commander Marshall Lawson is surprised when his strike team is killed in a violent attack, possibly because he was too busy thinking of an awesome name for them to realize what strike teams actually do. This name was almost disqualified for being a blatant pun, but ruling against a Steven Seagal character is usually the last mistake anyone ever makes, so we’ll allow it. And anything else he does. Even the music. Because we like our elbow joints the way they are.
Dolph Lundgren already has one of the manliest names in the world, but he made that happen with his own muscles, and he made those himself too. “Lundgren” sounds like the belly-deep grunting a body makes when it strains to lift a tank for a suplex, and his career is based on looking like he could do that. As opposed to looking good. Or mostly human.
His most famous role was Ivan Drago, a name synonymous with the entire communist empire in ’80s action movies and more intimidating than the one in the real world. Most men couldn’t come close to either of those names. Dolph shatters both with Max Gatling, post-apocalyptic warrior in tomorrow’s Battle of the Damned, where human survivors have to team up with the intelligent robots to take on their real enemy: zombies. Which leaves you wondering just how artificially “intelligent” those robots are. When the crisis is dead human bodies, that’s not a machine problem, that’s a machine solution. Unless undead dentine has gained the ability to bite through solid steel you’d think the machines would sit this out on the sidelines while stockpiling flamethrower fuel.
But their databanks knew that any side led by Max Gatling would be the winner, even though the movie probably won’t justify such an awesome name. But then, nothing could live up to that name short of inventing a type of bullet that only hurts evil and then standing on the moon hand-cranking a multiple-barrel rotating gun at the Earth until it’s perfect.
The Island Of Stability Of Badass Names
Naming a movie ass-kicker is a careful balancing act between announcing awesomeness and avoiding laughter. Pacific Rim‘s Stacker Pentecost soars over that like an angry tank with a jetpack: an impossible fusion of awesomeness. Stacker Pentecost is not even nearly a name. It makes “Jack Sledgehammer” look subtle, leaves “Dirk Shadow-Fenix” looking down at his nametag like a shy speed-dater, and powers through levels of appellation impossibility which should disintegrate into a shower of ridiculous subrubic syllables, finding a new island of sobriquet stability. An undiscovered region of naming where sheer badassery shoves the sounds together and just stares at them until they agree to work.
Stacker Pentecost. That shouldn’t sound tough. It should sound like a religious forklift operator. Instead it suggests sacrifice and redemption through the act of very physically putting things in their place, even when those things are thousands of tons of inter-dimensional alien. This is a character who was told another trip in a jaeger would radioactively kill him, and ordered that jaeger to detonate an atomic warhead so that he struck first. And took the jaeger with him. And saved the world in the process, because a mere quarter-kilometer tall mega-robot isn’t a good trade for one Stacker Pentecost.
Luke McKinney writes about games, drink, science, and everything else that makes life amazing. He’s a columnist on Cracked and writes for several beer magazines. He’s also available for hire. Follow him on Tumblr and Twitter @lukemckinney.