Over the years the bow and arrow have become a defining weapon for some of the most popular and iconic characters in cinema. While not every archer holds a place in the history books, many have gone on to define generations of movie buffs as the “archer” archetype still stands as one of the longest running single characterizations of any in the industry.
Today I’m taking a look at the top ten most bad ass, stylish, beautiful and talented archers who have ever hit the big screen. While their iconic status plays a big role in their inclusion on this list, they do not necessarily need to have become a household name. They simply need to be a talented, efficient and capable archer and have the bow and arrow play a big role in their characterization to be considered. The more talented and capable they are and the bigger role their bow and arrow skills play in their characterization the higher they will be on the list. Remember these are only archers that have appeared in films, so the Green Arrow, Darryl Dixon and others on television were not considered despite their iconic status.
Honorable mentions go to Lewis from “Deliverance” and David Spritz from “The Weather Man” that were both heavily considered for this list but just didn’t make the cut.
Without further adue here we go!
- Susan Pevensie (“The Chronicles of Narnia” franchise)
As the second eldest members of the four Pevensie children who find their way into the land of Narnia, Susan Pevensie is the amateur of this list having only found her skill with the bow and arrow midway through the first film in the “Narnia” series, “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”. Susan receives her bow from Father Christmas as the children prepare for their showdown against the army of the White Queen and while her skills are not perfect at that time, Susan shows a natural talent as a skilled marksman as she puts her new weapon to the ultimate test. Susan would later brush up on her archery skills in later films and would become a quick and accurate ally to the forces of good and while the “Narnia” series seems to have lost its luster Susan certainly managed to make her mark, even with just the first film, as an iconic movie archer.
- Rambo ( The “Rambo” Franchise)
It takes a great deal of skill to master any weapon, but when you’re a master of many I guess you can keep your options open. That is the case of our next archer, Rambo. The action icon is known for his abilities with guns and knives but on occasion he does break out his trusty compound bow, which proves to be just a lethal in the hands of the hardened soldier as other more common and conventional weapons. This was very apparent in the 2008 “Rambo” film where not only was the protagonist pictured in the film poster using the bow, it was also the main weapon during one of the most prominent action scenes in the movie when Rambo uses it to slaughter an army of soldiers single-handedly. Talk about badass.
- Abigail Whistler (Blade: Trinity)
A master-class archer, this sexy vampire hunter was a member of the Nightstalkers unit in the third “Blade” film and possessed not only a determined warrior attitude, but great skill with her trusty bow and arrow used to down many a vampire in her day. Following the ex-vampire Hannibal King, Abigail was shown to be an expert marksman and often employed a special arrow that could slice a vampire in two. Focused and unforgiving, getting in the way of this expert archer would be a mistake for any opponent, vampire or human. Need proof? Just watch her target practice scene where her focus and handling of her signature weapon is flawless, calm and stylish as all the best archers truly are.
- Princess Merida (Brave)
The lead character in Disney and Pixar’s 2012 movie “Brave”, Merida is a Scottish princess seeking the opportunity to write her own story and choose her own destiny when she is set to be betrothed to a husband during an archery competition. Being the rebel she is, Merida not only denies her supposed fate, she enters the competition and bests her potential husbands, but that is only a taste of this redheaded fireballs archery skills. Merida takes pride in her abilities with the bow and arrow, so much so her confidence in her aim and shot are unmatched. While her bow and arrow skills were not as prominent in her film as many had been led to believe, archery is a big part of Merida’s character development and there’s no denying she can shoot with the best of them and she knows it.
- Neytiri (Avatar)
As the brave and skilled warrior heir to the Na’vi leadership in the space epic “Avatar”, Neytiri is not only a skilled hunter and gatherer, she is a worthy opponent on the battlefield who knows her way around a bow and arrow. With the weapon being the signature line of defense for her people, Neytiri employs her flawless sense of strategy and skill with the bow to hunt for her people and protect them from the invading humans who want to ravage her land for resources. Laced with a neurotoxin, her arrows are deadly and her aim even deadlier. Once this alien archer sets her sight on a target you can bet it’s lights out.
- Prince Ashitaka (Princess Mononoke)
Cursed by a demon, Prince Ashitaka is the heroic archer from Director Hayao Miyazaki’s animated epic “Princess Mononoke” and acts as a hero in the story after his search for a cure for the aforementioned curse puts him square in the middle of a war between humans and forest gods. As such Ashitaka’s skills with a bow and arrow become his most effective attribute when he finds himself in battle situations and every shot is straight and true even under pressure. Ashitaka may not be the most widely known archer on this list, but he has become an iconic character in Japanese film culture as well as the world of anime for his staring hero role in one of Japan’s most successful films ever.
- Hawkeye (The Marvel Cinematic Universe)
Born Clint Barton, Hawkeye is unique in that he is one of two members of the 2012 Avengers team to not employ super powers, but rather he and his partner Black Widow depend more on their individual skills than anything else. For Barton that skill is his accuracy and talent with a bow. Possessing a wide array of arrows with add-ons ranging from grappling hooks to explosives, Barton has shown the ability to not only hit his mark, but also do it without even looking. He might not be super powered, but he is always lethal and lives up to his alias by shooting every arrow with conviction and accuracy that rivals any of the best shooters in film.
- Katniss Everdeen (“The Hunger Games” Franchise)
As a member of a society oppressed by those born into more luxurious and privileged lifestyles, Katniss Everdeen is the iconic protagonist of “The Hunger Games”. Thrown into the arena in a literal game of life and death, Katniss has few skills outside of basic survival knowledge to help her take on her opponents. What she does have are a sharp eye and a talent for hitting her target with an arrow. A natural born survivor and strategist who sharpened her aim and senses through hunting in her home of District 12, Katniss employs all of her knowledge of the bow and arrow to survive in the arena numerous times throughout the book and film series, so much so that her bow and arrow skills have become iconic and brought a rise in interest in the sport of archery as “The Hunger Games” popularity peaked. Katniss embodies the best attributes of an expert archer, shooting every shot flawlessly and deliberately with a target in mind that she usually hits without fail.
- Legolas (“The Lord of The Rings” and “The Hobbit” series)
The legendary elf from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of The Rings” universe is one of the most well-known and iconic archers on this list and, in fact, is often used as a comparison for movie archers that came before or sense his appearance on the big screen. A trick shot master who seems to be able to take advantage of any angle to get the job done, Legolas is one of the most prominent figures in the “Lord of the Rings” film and book and he’s the archer many wish they could be and, frankly, few could ever hope to be, even if many of his tricks and talents with a bow and arrow are due to the fantasy aspects of the world he lives in. Able to shoot quick and straight and even fire multiple arrows at once with flawless precision, Legolas is a true great who made archery cool in the early 2000s and helped popularize the sport for a whole new generation.
- Robin Hood (“Robin Hood” franchise)
This one was probably pretty obvious. The original cinematic archer, Robin Hood was the character who made archery a cultural phenomenon. Living in an era where stealth was key and gunpowder weapons were scarce is not nonexistent, Robin Hood takes full advantage of the most handy and lightweight projectile weapon of the best soldiers of his time with the bow and arrow. The characters accomplishments, while fictional, are the stuff of legend as his trick shots, competitive personality, generosity, anti-hero persona and his seemingly flawless archery skills have all gone on to define the style and characterization of nearly every archer that has come about since, both real and imaginary. Robin Hood has undergone many transformations over the years, but his one constant partner in life is his trusty bow, which every incarnation of the character uses to perfection as more than just a tool, but a true extension of his person that is to be feared by any in its way. He is the definitive archer and the one that every character on this list could only hope to be in their lifetime both in skill and popularity.