The word “badass” nowadays is being lavishly used (i.e. misused/overused) as much as the words “awesome”, “cool”, and “epic” are being lavishly used (i.e. misused/overused). In fact, while “awesome”, “cool”, and “epic” tend to become somewhat of synonyms already in the sense that they are being exaggeratedly used informally as adjectives to compliment something of good-quality, “badass” is also oftentimes being used by many on that same context.
For me, in its purest definition, “badass” means extreme testosterone toughness. Now, by “testosterone”, I don’t mean that there are no badass females. There are. But what I mean by that is “having the balls” – and if you know slang, that doesn’t need to be something literal; it means having guts, potency, and/or boldness.
Being a badass means having hardcore tenacity when making a stand or when enduring pain and pressure. A badass displays reckless ferocity when pursuing an objective – or in destroying a target. A badass doesn’t cringe in the face of antagonism and danger.
Violence could be the most tangible measurement of a badass. It doesn’t necessarily mean a badass takes pleasure in violence, but it means that when there is a need for violence – when it is the only option left – a badass can be brutally aggressive without being squeamish.
Now, with the definition above, it is particularly applicable to a person. Discussion on the appropriate usage of “badass” on something inanimate (e.g. a badass gun) is for another day. And with the definition above, we set the standards for those belonging in this list.
Now, there are a lot of badass fictional characters out there. I would be missing plenty of notable badass characters out there, but there is only room for ten. How were that ten picked? They were the first ten that came to mind as I was writing this list. It means that their badassery had struck me the most significantly that I was able to recall them the swiftest.
10.) “DIRTY” HARRY CALLAHAN
“I know what you're thinking. 'Did he fire six shots or only five?' Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?”
That is indeed something a true badass would say. Pretty chilling, right?
9.) JOHN RAMBO
When I first encountered John Rambo as a kid, he struck me as the ultimate action hero.
A Green Beret, Rambo is tough and well-trained to kill and survive. He had several times endured heavy amounts of brutal torture (it had given him PTSD though, making him prone to violence – which merely added a layer to his badassery). Even with just knives, a bow, and arrows, he can still pile up quite a body count of armed enemies. He modifies his arrows to explode. When being hunted by a large quantity of enemies, he smartly employs guerrilla tactics to cut their numbers. He pilots a chopper, pretends to be unconscious, and as the enemy chopper hovers to check him out, suddenly lifts a rocket launcher, shooting through his cockpit’s windshield to destroy the enemy. He shreds entire armies with heavy machine guns. Truly, he can be easily identified as a badass.
8.) THE TERMINATOR
Whether he’s the bad guy on an assassination mission or the (reprogrammed) good guy tasked to protect someone from another cyborg assassin, the Terminator would show hardass durability and dogged dedication in carrying out his mission down to the last seconds of his functionality. He would never stop unless he is thoroughly destroyed – which is a hard thing to accomplish. As a machine, he is coldly unconcerned with collateral damages (but when he was reprogrammed to be a good guy, he, of course, avoided killing humans even when they are attacking him), thus, he freely expresses his fondness for using high-caliber weaponry.
7.) KING LEONIDAS
Leonidas I was an actual historical figure, and I don’t know if he was as badass as the fictional depiction of him in the epic movie, 300 (based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel). Magnificently portrayed by Gerard Butler, the fictional Leonidas could be more iconic than the real-life one.
To protect Greece from Persian invasion, Leonidas would lead 300 Spartan soldiers against hundreds of thousands of the Persian Empire’s soldiers. And despite of being greatly outnumbered, the Spartans – with Leonidas at the frontlines – would consistently slaughter their enemies due to their superior military training and of their disciplined use of the phalanx formation. Though the 300 would ultimately lose (after being betrayed and outflanked), Leonidas and his men were unyielding until death.
6.) JOHN McCLANE
“Yippie kai yay, motherf@#%$!” McClane has been forever immortalized for that iconic badass, funny quote.
As the protagonist of the Die Hard series, this tough NYPD cop, for several times, has unluckily found himself having to deal with terrorist threats that are way above his paygrade. But because he’s a big badass, kicking their butts is no big deal for him. Even when bloodied and beaten up – which routinely happens to him in every adventure he’s in – he would just shrug off the pain; would continue being a smartass; and go on with blowing stuff up, emptying magazine clips, breaking necks, and saving the day.
“Yippie kai yay, motherf@#%$!” indeed.
5.) JAMES BOND
007, the greatest fictional spook ever, is a mix of smooth suave and rough badassery. He freely shifts between the two airs as well as simultaneously projects both. He can be charmingly warm one second and then ruthlessly cold the next. That’s what is special with Bond’s brand of badassery.
His badassery is in full glorious display whenever he would endure and overcome no matter what painful obstacle he faces. His steel of a resolve never breaks, no matter what – even in the presence of threat or actual application of hellish torture on him.
4.) THE PUNISHER
It would take a brutal and horrible origin story to push Frank Castle into becoming “the Punisher”: the gunning down of his family by the Mob. With his extensive military training, heavy arsenal, tendency to go for the overkill, and “nothing to lose” reckless attitude, Frank Castle declared a one-man war on crime after that tragedy.
In a world where superpowers are a staple in the war between crimefighters and criminals, the Punisher has made himself relevant. His methods are not heroic at all, thus, he is even at odds with most superheroes. So he rarely team-up well with superheroes, who mostly adhere to a “no-killing” policy (Frank is lucky, though, that the current superhero team he is on, the Thunderbolts, has no problem with killing evil doers). Still, it can’t be denied that he’s efficient in stopping criminals permanently. Castle is more concerned with dealing with street crime, common scumbags, and organized crime. But if supervillians are stupid enough to cross his path, the Punisher can handily annihilate them.
Frank Castle is one of the dangerous men in the Marvel Universe and a bona fide badass; he’s more than deserving to be in this list. It also helps that his simple but stylish outfit is badass as well.
3.) KENPACHI ZARAKI
Among all Bleach protagonists, Kenpachi is my most favorite character. Yes, I even like him more than the main character, Ichigo. His badassery easily makes him the most interesting and complex character in Bleach. He is immensely powerful that even though his fighting style is unrefined and he has never learned Bankai yet, he is one of the most powerful captains in the Gotei 13. Heck, he is even capable of beating two captains at once!
Kenpachi is a deadly, brutal, and very powerful warrior. Despite being one of the good guys, he is a bloodthirsty killer. Still, even though he has a violent nature, he does maintain a code of ethics.
His primary interest and motivation have always been finding thrill in battle. The more dangerous and powerful his foe is, the more enjoyment he gets. He would even completely put a handicap on himself to lengthen the fight and make it more challenging for him – all for the purpose of deriving more excitement from the battle! He put bells on his hair, so that his opponent would know that he is coming. He has an eyepatch on, which not only covers his good eye, but also serves as a power limiter, preventing him from unleashing his full power. He wields a sword with just one hand, since a two-hand attack from him causes tremendous damage; he would only attack with two-hands when he feels he will lose if he doesn’t. Also, there would be instances where he would allow his opponent to freely strike him or wound him. He holds back a lot, and still manages to win his battles.
When his opponent is too injured to properly fight back, he would seemingly grow bored with the fight – or it could be mercy in the guise of disinterest – and proceed to walk away, claiming that he isn’t interested with “weaklings that can’t fight back.”
Moreover, it was revealed later on that not only is Kenpachi consciously holding back his full power but he’s also unconsciously holding back as well. When Kenpachi was a young boy, growing in a lawless region filled with cutthroats and murderers, he learned to become a very talented swordsman and has killed many opponents. Eventually, he would encounter and duel with Retsu Unohana – the mild mannered captain, revealed to be the original battle-thirsty Kenpachi and a captain already at that time. Experiencing for the first time fighting a formidable opponent, he felt for the first time the thrill of battle and unconsciously sealed his power so that he can fight her longer. That experience is probably where his habit of consciously holding back his full power started, which had extended into continually unconsciously sealing his true power.
For Kenpachi to be able to be strong enough to fight the Wandenreich, Unohana proceeded to aid him in unleashing his true power, which he had unconsciously sealed. Unohana and Kenpachi fought in a series of duels, which Kenpachi consecutively lost. But after each mortal blow that Unohana delivers, she would heal Kenpachi to full health, and they would proceed to fight again. With each succeeding duel, Kenpachi grew stronger until he finally got the upper hand over Unohana. With Unohana’s death, Kenpachi was finally able to tap on his true power. In the aftermath, Kenpachi’s Zanpakutō spoke to him for the first time.
It hasn’t been revealed yet how powerful Kenpachi is and what would his Bankai be.
2.) & 1.) WOLVERINE & BATMAN
The top two spots belong to Wolverine and Batman, two of the greatest comicbook characters ever. Both are tenaciously enduring, and would come back from anything you throw at them with the same kind of doggedness, determination, and toughness – if not with a vengeance – that they previously displayed. It’s as if the enormous assaults they would receive are mere annoyances to them. They can’t be intimidated; rather they are the ones that do the intimidating. They never back down, and nothing can keep them down. They understand the ugliness, insanity, and darkness that the world is capable of, and don’t cringe when there is a need to get their hands dirty. Moreover, an argument can be made that they are borderline psychopaths.
These two simultaneously came to mind first when I was making this list, but I have to give a slight edge to Batman. Wolverine has the benefit of an indestructible skeleton and a healing factor, which basically makes him immortal, and adamantium claws that can rip through mostly anything, thus, Wolverine can leap into danger with berserk recklessness. But Batman displays the same level of badassery as Wolverine even though he is vulnerable. Consider this fact: in a Justice League filled with heroes with godlike powers, not only can a non-powered Batman stand equally with them, but he is even considered as the most dangerous among them! So the top spot is Batman’s – but just by a hair.
BONUS: DARK CLAW
The only thing that can be possibly more badass than Wolverine and Batman is someone that is a combination of both. And such character actually exists. Back in the 90’s, Marvel and DC created Amalgam Comics, which featured characters that are combinations of a Marvel character and a DC character. Dark Claw is the combination of Wolverine and Batman.
However, Dark Claw’s character hasn’t been properly expounded or developed, thus, there was no room for him to develop his own badassery. Therefore, he doesn’t make this list. It wasn’t observed if he is as badass as the summation of the two badass characters’ badassery. And it seems like cheating anyway to include him, when Batman and Wolverine already has the top two spots. Also, I don’t like the godawful character design.