Sometimes, you just can’t beat a good “guy movie.” You don’t have to be a guy to enjoy these films, but you must be able to manage testosterone-fuelled action which will no doubt contain fighting, guns, mobsters, car chases, explosions and (female) nudity. This could be a description of almost any action film, but great “guy movies” are much more than this. The truly great ones will tap into the male psyche and explore masculine themes which will have impacted every guy watching the film. Beer and pizza at the ready, here are 10 great “guy movies.”
10. Dirty Harry (1971)
The “guy movie” audience love renegade cops, antiheroes and brilliant quotes. Dirty Harry ticks all of these boxes, and Clint Eastwood is a big figure in the “guy movie” category (more on him later). This 1971 action-thriller classic tells the story of detective Harry Callahan, a rogue cop who shoots first and asks questions later, who is looking to take down a psychotic serial killer calling himself Scorpio. Harry has his own moral code and will not hesitate in breaking the law if it gets the job done. Not conforming to orders is what makes Harry, and all antiheroes, such enjoyable characters and ones that the “guy movie” audience cheers for. Harry has become an iconic antihero and one which has inspired many that came after. There are, of course, dozens of fantastic quotes from this film too, making it a great choice for any guy movie night.
9. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Most classic “guy movies” you can sit back and enjoy without becoming too heavily invested; this is not the case for the 1998 war masterpiece, Saving Private Ryan. It is a brutally realistic war film which captures the horrors of battle, set during the Invasion of Normandy in WWII. The opening sequence will leave viewers completely stunned and horrified, but it is also a fantastic story and brilliantly crafted by Steven Spielberg. The story follows a group of soldiers that go into enemy territory to locate Private Ryan, whose three brothers were killed in action. It is a deeply engaging and emotional journey that they go on, and it explores brotherhood and the psychological impact of violence and war on individuals. The unflinching approach makes it a difficult watch at times, but it redefined the entire war genre and is an excellent “guy movie” (but also much more than this).
8. Lock, Stock & 2 Smoking Barrels (2002)
Guns, a heist, gambling, gangsters, violence, cockney rhyming slang, British humor and Vinnie Jones. Guy Ritchie’s 2002 British crime-comedy film, Lock, Stock & 2 Smoking Barrels ticks all the boxes for a classic “guy movie.” Not only does it contain all of the above, but it is also a brilliantly told story which uses interweaving narratives. This makes it an impressive, clever and unique film which will keep the audience engaged from start to finish. It features all kinds of fantastic characters (Barry the Baptist, Hatchet Harry, Big Chris and Nick the Greek), some exhilarating action, and it is also hilarious and very, very British. Snatch (featuring a similar cast plus Brad Pitt) could also feature on this list, and for a proper “guy movie” night, you will not regret watching both back-to-back. You may even find you’ve developed a cockney accent after.
7. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
The Western genre may not be taken too seriously, but there are some classic spaghetti Westerns which make for a brilliant “guy movie” night. The entire Dollars trilogy by Sergio Leone is worth watching, but it is the final installment, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which is the most famous. Antiheroes are a staple in “guy movies” because the (typically) male audience is more likely to relate to these characters. Clint Eastwood is the master of playing the antihero, and this is perhaps his finest performance in the role. The plot follows three gunslingers all competing to find a fortune during the American Civil War, and there are many fantastic duels and battles along the way. In addition to the gun-toting fun, it is also famous for using stylistic long shots and close ups, as well as all your favorite Western tropes.
6. The Terminator (1984)
For any fan of “guy movies,” or guy culture, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is a legend. The bodybuilder (who became Mr. Universe at age 20) turned actor turned politician (amongst many other strings to his bow) has starred in dozens of “guy movie” classics, and his sense of humor, work ethic and astonishing strength and size make him a hero in the genre. In his most famous “guy movie,” The Terminator, it is not a hero he plays however; it is the antagonist of the film. He was originally offered the lead role, but correctly decided that playing a cyborg assassin from the future was a much more realistic role for him. In addition to being a highly quotable film, it also features some excellent and relentless action sequences and is now considered to be an important film in the genre (and would launch the career of director James Cameron).
5. Rocky (1976)
An important theme in “guy movies” is one man’s struggle against the odds, and this can be inspirational to the audience as well as highly enjoyable. This is most evident in the 1976 boxing drama, Rocky. It is a rags-to-riches tale of a working class Italian-American boxer, who gets a shot at the heavyweight championship. Rocky “The Italian Stallion” Balboa first must train for the big fight, spawning the world famous training montage, which has been created countless times and become an iconic cinema moment. The story may be predictable, but this does not take away from how enjoyable it is, and you can be sure that every guy that sees this film will be trying that little bit harder in the gym the next day. Rocky would turn Sylvester Stallone into a major star, as well as spawn five sequels (also compulsory “guy movie” watches).
4. Fight Club (1999)
The clue is in the name with this one. Fight Club is one of the greatest “guy movies” of all time, and not just because it has Brad Pitt and Ed Norton and features a bunch of guys beating the hell out of each other. Fight Club taps into the male psyche and what life is like as a modern day male, seeing the characters backlash against consumerism by starting Fight Club, which soon evolves into an anti-materialist organization called “Project Mayhem.” Although it did not perform well upon release, Fight Club has gone on to become a critical and financial success and is therefore considered a cult film. It has an abundance of blood and violence, but it is also a fascinating film which explores life as a male in a materialist world. As Tyler Durden puts it, “It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”
3. Scarface (1983)
The Scarface poster adorns the wall of millions of males, and lead character Tony Montana has become a cultural icon (particularly in the rap genre). It tells the story of a Cuban refugee, going from nothing to becoming the biggest drug kingpin in Miami, and it of course features hard drug use, strong language and an enormous amount of violence. It is essentially a rags-to-riches story in a gangster setting, and this will always attract and retain male interest. It is also a highly quotable film (like all good “guy movies”), and this includes classic lines such as “You gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.” Scarface has all the necessary for a great “guy movie,” and it is also considered to be a classic and important piece of cinema history.
2. Die Hard (1988)
When you discuss “guy movies,” there is a good chance that this will be the first film that springs to mind. Watching Die Hard for the first time is almost a rite of passage for any male, and this is for good reason. Starring Bruce Willis, it is the ultimate action film and somewhat of a benchmark for the genre. The hero is an off-duty cop with family problems, and it features Eurotrash villains led by the brilliant Alan Rickman. There are countless brilliant one-liners, guns, explosions, helicopters and hand-to-hand combat, all set inside a Los Angeles skyscraper on Christmas Eve. There is more than enough action and comedy to keep you entertained from start to finish, and John McClane’s struggle to foil a terrorist plot all by himself (in bare feet) makes him a brilliant action hero, and up there with the best of them.
1. The Godfather (1972)
Widely heralded as one of the greatest films of all time, The Godfather also falls under the “guy movie” category. It is a film which connects with a male audience quite unlike any other film, and this is because it explores many typically male themes such as pride, family, honor and revenge. This is all explored in a mob setting, where Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is dragged into his family’s organized crime operation after an assassination attempt on his father, Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). Michael’s transformation is utterly fascinating, and a large part of why this film is so popular and celebrated. It has also been hugely influential on the entire gangster genre, which is, of course, a big player in the “guy movie” department. Whilst The Godfather can be enjoyed by those that are not a fan of “guy movies,” it resonates with this audience unlike any other movie.