20. The Cowboys (1972)
Logline: After his employees abandon him to find gold, a rancher reluctantly takes on a group of boys for a dangerous cattle drive.
Memorable Moments: “Forgive me for all those men I’ve killed out of anger, and for all those I’m about to.” This line launches a sudden burst of violence that culminates in one of the most gratifying kills of any bad guy to grace the Silver Screen. And speaking of villains, Long Hair (Bruce Dern) became the most hated man in America for what he does to the Duke.
Why Guys Dig It: John Wayne by this time was your rugged grandfather, who may be old, but he could still take you to the woodshed if you needed it. He is both abrasive and approachable, and there is something about him you can’t help loving. We also dig the great ending.
19. Once Upon a Time in the West (1969)
Logline: A mysterious drifter and a ruthless enforcer for a railroad baron head for a showdown to settle an untold score.
Memorable Moments: Henry Fonda himself is a memorable moment in this film. Always one to play the white hat hero, he takes a 180-degree turn and goes for pure evil, killing men, women and children, all while flashing those baby blues at the camera. Charles Bronson, the harmonica playing good guy, has a score to settle, and in a legendary opening sequence, proves himself capable of the job. Facing down three men with three horses, he stands alone on the other side of the tracks. “You forgot your horse,” one of the men laughs. In cold, wooden, and wonderful Bronson fashion, he simply replies, “Looks like you brought two too many.” You can probably guess what happens next.
Why Guys Dig It: Quentin Tarantino idolized director Sergio Leone for this film in particular, even shooting a new trailer for the special edition DVD. The coolness of both protagonist and antagonist makes this one not to miss!
18. The Departed (2006)
Logline: Two double agents—one mob, one cop—engage in a violent struggle to discover the other’s identity.
Memorable Moments: Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) rules the Irish Mafia with a brutal hand. Bringing up police officer Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) as his successor provides many violent thrills and chills, but nothing compares to the shocking surprise ending.
Why Guys Dig It: What guy hasn’t ever wanted to play hardcore cops and robbers? It’s why Grand Theft Auto is such a successful franchise of video games, and it’s why this Martin Scorsese film is among the maestro’s best.
17. The Shining (1980)
Logline: An author goes crazy and tries to kill his family while acting as the caretaker of a haunted hotel during a brutal winter storm.
Memorable Moments: Jack Nicholson is completely deranged as Jack Torrance, a family man with an inner darkness that finally boils over to madness at a chilling moment in the film as he stalks wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) up the staircase with “redrum” on his mind. Son Danny’s haunting and violent visions in the hallway hint at the place’s dark history and its possible deadly future. “Heeeeere’s Johnny!”
Why Guys Dig It: Aside from Nicholson’s performance, men dig what the movie has to say about routines and commitments, and how they can sometimes drive you a little crazy.
16. Backdraft (1991)
Logline: Two brothers on the Chicago Fire Department work together to bring down a deadly arsonist.
Memorable Moments: Lots of stunning fire play and explosions in this one. Virtually every backdraft will take your breath away and the unhinged performance of Donald Sutherland as a mentally ill arsonist lights up the screen. Not to mention that touching and exciting finale!
Why Guys Dig It: Brothers share a close bond that few people who have never experienced it ever could. Backdraft captures this connection perfectly. That, and how can you not appreciate a cast that includes Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Scott Glenn, Robert De Niro, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rebecca DeMornay, and the late great J.T. Walsh?
15. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
Logline: Two men who hate each other race against time and a ruthless mercenary to uncover buried gold in a cemetery.
Memorable Moments: Lee Van Cleef has a fun time being bad in this classic Western. Whether he’s taking payments from targets to kill his employers or torturing men for information, he is the Man in Black and will stop at nothing to get the treasure before Blondie (Clint Eastwood) and Tuco (Eli Wallach) can.
Why Guys Dig It: A massive Western like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly appeals to any man who had a thing for showdowns, independence, and mano-y-mano violence.
14. The Godfather (1972)
Logline: An aging mob boss struggles between legacy and family amid the burgeoning drug trade of the Forties.
Memorable Moments: The horse head in the bed and Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes are not the only two great moments of The Godfather. There is also the murder of Sonny Corleone and the hard-hitting finish as Michael moves to dispatch all of the men who played a role in his father’s assassination attempt.
Why Guys Dig It: There is something very empowering about using force to get what you want. Don Vito Corleone makes a career of it, tempered with a passionate love for his children.
13. L.A. Confidential (1997)
Logline: Three very different investigators clash over a murder investigation with implications of police corruption in Fifties Los Angeles.
Memorable Moments: The massacre at the Nite Owl diner initially comes to mind, but it takes a back seat to the tension that crackles on the screen between Officers Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) and Bud White (Russell Crowe). These are very different men, who hate each other, and both actors turn them into star-making roles. (White: “The Nite Owl case made you. You’re telling me you want to tear all that down? Exley: “With a wrecking ball. Wanna help me swing it?”)
Why Guys Dig It: The action is gritty. The stars are compelling. The characters are well drawn from the psyche of men everywhere.
12. Alien (1979)
Logline: A crew of space explorers becomes the victims of a rogue alien creature with intentions of murder and reproduction.
Memorable Moments: In much the same fashion of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, this film catches you off guard with the cast it chooses to kill and the unexpected brutality and realism of the creature. And how can you leave out the chest-bursting scene?
Why Guys Dig It: It’s moody, claustrophobic, atmospheric and scary. After all these years, movies such as Pandorum and Event Horizon are trying to replicate its effects.
11. Aliens (1986)
Logline: Ripley accompanies a crew of space marines to a colony attacked by acid-spitting creatures from the first film.
Memorable Moments: “Get away from her, you bitch,” remains one of the most cheer-inducing lines in the history of action films. The fight between the Mother Alien and Ripley in the loading bot holds up well after all these years, and so does the unexpected bisection of actor Lance Henriksen.
Why Guys Dig It: Action, action, and more action! Plus, it never hurts to see a woman kick a little backside.
10. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Logline: The crew of the Starship Enterprise must fend off a vengeful space pirate 20 years after their initial encounter.
Memorable Moments: The worms drilling their way into the ears of two Starfleet officers found acknowledgement in the 2010 reboot. The space battles between the Enterprise and Reliant are also strategically and beautifully shot. Let’s also not forget Spock’s death scene.
Why Guys Dig It: Of the original series films, Wrath of Khan is really the only one that resembled early Star Wars. Bigger on action, less on philosophical mumbo jumbo, but still enough meat there for human thought. It’s a top notch sci-fi epic and one of the best of its kind.
9. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Logline: A wrongly accused man finds hope in his friendship with a reformed killer while serving a prison sentence at Shawshank Penitentiary.
Memorable Moments: So many gut-wrenching scenes to think of: the killing of Andy’s (Tim Robbins) ticket out of Shawshank; a parolees struggle to adjust to life on the outside after over 50 years in the pen; the prison rapists and Andy’s unfortunate run-ins with them; Captain Hadley (Clancy Brown) and his penchant for beating the inmates; and the uplifting finale.
Why Guys Dig It: We have a fascination with life on the inside. We are also drawn to stories of hope and overcoming oppression.
8. Heat (1995)
Logline: Two men on opposing sides of the law are on a collision course in modern day Los Angeles.
Memorable Moments: It was the film that finally put Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in the same scenes together, although they don’t share many. Writer-director Michael Mann’s three-hour crime saga makes the wise decision of keeping the interactions to just two: a riveting “line in the sand” sequence at the midpoint, and an intense and expertly filmed game of cat-and-mouse in an airfield at the climax.
Why Guys Dig It: Two great actors, shining examples of the tough-as-nails American man going after each other while still at the top of their games. Forget that god-awful follow-up Righteous Kill.
7. Goodfellas (1990)
Logline: Based on the true story of Henry Hill, a guy who, along with his friends, rise up through the mob ranks from the Fifties through the Eighties.
Memorable Moments: The “Do I amuse you?” scene was a fine example for how completely terrifying Joe Pesci could be in his role as hood Tommy DeVito. In fact, most of the memorable scenes in this film pertain to DeVito’s sheer lunacy, including killing a teenage kid for talking back to him and slicing up an old school gangster with a butcher knife in the trunk of a car.
Why Guys Dig It: The mob violence and brutality was taken to a new level with Goodfellas, and it’s our grim fascination with this side of life that keeps us coming back for more.
6. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Logline: A Brooklyn gangster returns home after many years away to find that the past sometimes catches up with you.
Memorable Moments: The gunshot through the loupe. The sex scenes. The long, slow shots that director Sergio Leone was so famous for milking while still holding onto entertainment value. And the fact that this was the beautiful Jennifer Connelly’s first movie role!
Why Guys Dig It: Something about shocking mob violence keeps us glued to the tube for hours. In this case, expect to give up nearly four hours of your life, but it is completely worth it.
5. The Godfather Part II (1974)
Logline: Michael Corleone looks for answers in his father’s violent past for how to deal with his new mob powers.
Memorable Moments: A young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) slices open an Italian big shot, and cuts a path of bloody violence through 1920’s New York. Also, Michael’s increased ruthlessness spills out onto his brother Fredo, who becomes a marked man in the memorable “kiss of death” scene.
Why Guys Dig It: Every guy feels like they have a little Michael in them: cold, callused, ready for business. Guys dig The Godfather Part II because it safely represents the lengths to which we think we’ll go to.
4. Taxi Driver (1976)
Logline: A cab driving insomniac with violent tendencies looks to make a difference in his city—whether it be assassinating a high-profile politician or saving a young prostitute from her captors.
Memorable Moments: Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) takes his date Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) to an adult movie theater, and can’t understand why she becomes offended and ditches him. “You talkin’ to me? I don’t see anyone else standin’ here, so you must be talkin’ to me. And, of course, the gruesome shootout that closes the film.
Why Guys Dig It: An expertly crafted gunfight, shocking violence (even by today’s standards), and the desire to make a difference in the world that men often feel.
3. Dirty Harry (1971)
Logline: A renegade detective does battle with a rooftop sniper in Seventies San Francisco, breaking the law in order to serve justice.
Memorable Moments: Inspector Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) tortures the Scorpio Killer (Andy Robinson) for information in the middle of a football stadium. Scorpio pays to be beaten half-to-death in order to frame our hero for police brutality. Callahan sticks Scorpio in the leg with a switchblade amid heavy religious symbolism. The unforgettable finale sees Callahan tracking Scorpio to a rock quarry for one final showdown.
Why Guys Dig It: One man against the System playing by his own rules. Pass me a beer!
2. For A Few Dollars More (1965)
Logline: Two bounty hunters—one seeking money, the other wanting revenge—track a ruthless bandit in the Wild West.
Memorable Moments: Who’s the best shot? Monco (Clint Eastwood) and Colonel Mortimer (Lee Van Cleef) shoot off the other’s hat and make it dance through the dirty streets. And then, of course, that glorious ending! When the music stops, draw!
Why Guys Dig It: Both men are representative of different aspects in the male psyche. Monco demonstrates our desire to get ahead. Mortimer represents our protective natures. We like to think we have no limits when it comes to making others pay for doing harm to the ones we love.
1. Rocky (1976)
Logline: A million-to-one shot club fighter gets a chance to fight for the Heavyweight Championship of the World.
Memorable Moments: Bill Conti’s score, “Gonna Fly Now,” remains one of the most easily recognizable movie scores in the history of film. Aside from that, the training scenes in the meat locker and the steps outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art take a back seat only to the legendary fight sequence in which Rocky floors the champion, goes the distance and gets his eye cut open in order to see during the final round.
Why Guys Dig It: That feeling that it’s us against the world is particularly appealing about this film. It’s an ideal of the American Dream as perceived through 200 pounds of Macho.