Guns are not only a popular weapon in America, they’re a popular weapon in cinema as well as the go-to weapon for many heroes, villains, and antiheroes on the big screen. This weekend one of the best of them all will make his debut as Idris Elba portrays The Gunslinger in “The Dark Tower”. As the film’s debut approaches I thought I’d look at some other notable gunslingers in film. These are ten of the best.
For this list I looked at any character in film that utilizes hand guns as a main weapon of choice. I’m talking pistol-style guns or six shooters. So characters whose specialties also include rocket launchers and other similar weapons rather than depending mostly on smaller handheld guns do not count for this list. I also did not count characters known for using bigger, more destructive and cumbersome guns or who specialize in rifles. Those are all characters for other lists I have planned. These are character who utilize smaller, simple loaded weapons to the best of their abilities.
Who are your favorite gunslingers of the big screen? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to check out “The Dark Tower” in theaters this weekend and look for my review as well.
10. Django, “Django Unchained”
A natural with a gun, ex-slave turned bounty hunter Django turned into a master shooter under the tutelage of Dr. King Schultz in his quest for revenge in Quinten Tarantino’s “Django Unchained”. Packing numerous handheld guns including a Remington 1859 New Army, a Cobra “Big Bore” Derringer, and a Colt 1851 Navy, Django is fast, accurate, and full of anger, making him one of the most dangerous gunslingers of his time as he takes out slave owners and fellow shooters and proves to be not only a skilled marksman with a grudge, but a smart marksman who understands his enemies and comes prepared with a backup pistol just in case. Some of the best gunslingers come with a purpose, and for Django that purpose was to reunite with his wife and seek revenge on those who separated them. While he eventually succeeds, he leaves many bodies in his wake thanks to his skills with a trigger.
9. Jim aka “The Wacko Kid”, “Blazing Saddles”
The western genre was popular for gunslingers who could get the job done and in 1974’s “Blazing Saddles” we saw one major character parody them all, Jim, also known as “The Wacko Kid”. Known for his prowess with a pistol and his quick hand Jim is presented as a has-been with a famous name, but we get to see him show off his fast hands numerous times as well as his great aim. One time he fires off a successful long shot with an Single Action Army, showing off his natural ability to hit his target where it hurts. Jim served as the perfect representation of the ridiculousness of many western gunslingers that predated him, but ironically these qualities made him a notable slinger in his own right as he was truly one of the most feared marksmen in the west in this spoof film. It would have been nice to see him in his prime, but to see his comeback story was just as satisfying and made for some ridiculously comedic moments that paid tribute to the iconic gunslingers of the cinematic past.
8. Han Solo, The “Star Wars” Franchise
While Han Solo’s weapon of choice may be an amalgamation of real life weapons he has made his blaster pistol just as iconic as the real firearms we see on gun shop shelves today. Solo proved himself to be a crack shot during the famous, or in some cases infamous, “who shot first” scene of the original “Star Wars” film and ever since he has been associated with his signature weapon even in the new adaptations of the “Star Wars” adventure where he returned to help the heroes in “The Force Awakens”. Solo may not be the most talented of marksman, but he knows his way around his simple weapon and in fact seems to prefer it as it’s easy to work around and maneuver as he shoots wildly at enemies in every film he appears in. What he lacks in precision he makes up for in style, making his fictional blaster look cool and badass and showing off its effective range, aim, and speed backing it up with a fluid hand and keen eye for shot placement. He’d probably be higher on this list if he was a little more practiced in his shooting ability, but he deserves a spot here all the same.
7. Deadpool, “Deadpool”
The Merc With A Mouth is no stranger to taking or dishing out bullets, even while his trademark katana swords are his main non-firearm weapons of choice. While he may lean on his blades for more close-quarters combat, his signature firearms are just as important as he wields a pair of IWI Desert Eagle Mark XIX’s to take down enemies from a distance. The duel pistols were prominently featured in the opening scenes of Deadpool’s 2016 standalone film as he took out a team of highly trained mutants and marksmen one by one with only a handful of bullets on hand, even taking out several men at once with numerous headshots and a single round. Deadpool is a trained and talented assassin and one with a sense a humor, style, and a mission to kill. Give him a gun and he’s twice as dangerous and formidable and this scene alone defined his credibility as a gunslinger. Deadpool has long defied the conventions of his genre by not only breaking the forth wall, but choosing firearms over more science-fictioney powers like pulse blasts and other strange abilities (lets just forget that “X-Men Origins” adaptation shall we). He prefers a magazine and a powerful pistol and he knows how to use it probably better than any other hero or anti hero out there. While his fellow Marvel antihero The Punisher may be good with many weapons, Deadpool’s specialty is more compact making him faster and allowing for more trick shots that he, in all his comedic glory, pulls off with style.
6. El Mariachi, The “Mariachi” trilogy
El Mariachi was known for using MANY different weapons during his three film run, but it’s the many pistols in his guitar case in the second film, “Desperado”, that caught my eye for this list. Among the weapons this gunslinger uses are a few Ruger KP90s, a scoped Wildey Magnum, a Smith & Wesson Model 66 snub, and a few more powerful weapons including a shotgun. El Mariachi proved his prowess with a handgun most of all in “Desperado’s” famous bar scene where the marksman not only dished out the bullets, but utilized many of his now trademark weapons that filled his guitar case to take down nearly every enemy without fear or the smallest bit of unnecessary effort. Throughout the series El Mariachi is a force to be feared and his ability to utilize many different weapons with ease and precision make him one of the most versatile characters on this list. He’s a fun gunslinger to watch and one I wouldn’t want to look at the wrong way if I ever came across him at a bar.
5. Wesley, “Wanted”
When you’re movie’s plot revolves around a fraternity of assassins so skilled with small firearms they can literally control the trajectory of their bullets you’re bound to have at least one major gun slinging bad ass. While the film’s female assassin Fox showed off her own skills with a gun, it’s the movie’s main protagonist, Wesley, who gets the spot here for the variety of small firearms he uses and his quick acclimation to life as a gunfighter, becoming one of the best. Wesley starts his assassin career utilizing a a custom Beretta 92S and as his skills and targets grow he utilizes a wide array of other firearms including other Berettas and a few Browning Hi-Powers. Wesley’s signature weapon though is the Heckler & Koch USP Compact, a smaller weapon that allows the sharpshooter a gun with both stealth and power. Wesley possesses the ability to “bend” bullets, allowing him to shoot in motion and control the bullet’s movements around people and objects to hit an otherwise hidden or out-of-range target. It’s this ability, combined with his relentlessness and new-found confidence, that make him such a dangerously effective gunslinger especially when his fraternity turns on him and he single handedly shoots his way through their hideout, taking out an entire club of more experienced and skilled shooters with his weapons and their own. Now that is a gun touting badass if there ever was one.
4. Sam Chisolm, “The Magnificent Seven (2016)”
While there have been many great sharpshooters in the “Magnificent Seven” franchise I personally was mesmerized by one, the fearless leader of the newest iteration of the ragtag crew Sam Chisolm. Chisolm is a warrant officer and has the shooting ability to prove it, showing his talent early on in the film by disarming a bar of gunmen and then taking out his target without flinching once. His weapon of choice is a Single Action Army handgun and he often uses two at the same time as he takes out targets one at a time in a calm and precise manner. Chisolm also shows his talent with a Winchester rifle, but its his handguns that make him a truly fearsome shot and while several other members of the seven utilize handguns for battle Chisolm is the most precise and talented of all of them showing the ability to take out multiple enemies without fail in the heat of battle and handling his weapons with grace and care where others are more aggressive. He’s a skilled marksman and a man with a grudge and natural leadership skills, not to mention charisma. Combine that with a dependable pair of weapons and a seemingly endless amount of ammunition and the crew of Bartholomew Bogue never stood a chance again Chisolm, let alone six other very talented warriors by his side.
3. Smith, “Shoot ‘Em Up”
If you haven’t seen this movie and you love guns then you’re missing out. This character was literally built to be one of cinema’s most talented sharpshooters and while he has talent with bigger weapons, his specialty is small firearms regardless of what make, model, or caliber bullet. Smith not only utilizes his own choices of firearms, but knows enough about guns to switch seamlessly to the weapons of his opponents and understand their power, abilities, and ammunition without breaking a sweat. Throughout the film he uses a Walther PPK, a Desert Eagle, a Taurus PT92 AFS, and a Beretta just to name a few and each one is expertly handled to kill while in Smith’s hands as he works to protect a woman and child from those on their tail. Smith is not just a sharpshooter at his best, but also at his worst as he finds himself with broken fingers late in the film and still manages to be an accomplished marksman using a carrot to fire a gun straight at his foe. Smith gets major points for not only his abilities with a gun, but his knowledge of small firearms as he adapts flawlessly to whatever is in his hands. Trust me, it’s a performance you have to see and you’ll understand exactly why this gunslinger made it this far on this list.
2. John Wick, The “John Wick” Series
Calm, precise, capable, and relentless. These are the words that describe one of cinema’s most famous modern marksmen, John Wick. Now the subject of two films, John Wick is an ex hitman brought out of retirement first by a mobster’s son doing him wrong and second by a blood debt owed to a fellow hitman. In both “Wick” films to date he is man to be feared, handling every opponent with a calm, cool, and collected approach with handguns at the ready. He is a man of very precise taste, handpicking many of his firearms including a Heckler & Koch P30L, a Glock 26, and even using larger guns with higher fire rates and power at times if needed. For the most part however Wick seems to prefer small firearms, ones that are easy to hide, maneuver, and switch out when the need arises. His precise approach to his job makes him a master of the “double tap”, providing a headshot to anyone he shoots down and leaving no question to their death. Wick is also a master of his environment, using his easily maneuverable choices in weaponry to turn corners and dispatch groups of enemies with care. He’s a stylish marksman and a truly epic version of the modern gunslinger that has set the bar high for any future gun touting greats to come. An honorable mention goes to Wick’s female counterpart Loraine Braughton from “Atomic Blonde” who barely missed this list in favor of some more established gunslingers. That’s right, there are some badass gunslinging women too. Don’t think I forgot! So who made #1??? Well if you’re a movie buff you should already know only one movie character deserves the honor of the most notable and iconic gunslinger of all time…
1. The Man With No Name aka Blondie, The “Dollars Trilogy”
Over three films Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name became an icon for not only his stoic characterization but also for his ability with almost any classic western handgun you can name. It’s a persona that Eastwood can never escape and, along with Dirty Harry, cemented him as a gun-lovers role model to this day. Oozing confidence and an unrelenting calm, no other gunfighter could ever match up to the skill and precision of this iconic gunslinger, a character who pretty much defined the entire stereotype. From the Colt 1851 Navy used by Blondie in the graveyard scene of “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”, to the Single Action Army used in “A Fistful of Dollars” and “A Few Dollars More”, the Man With No Name’s artillery may not be as diverse or colorful as others on this list but he doesn’t need any more than he has. He’s the epitome of a marksman who rarely misses his shot and knows what he likes and how to use it. This is a man you want by your side in a gunfight and few, if any, could or would ever tango with the gunslinger to rule all gunslingers. This is the persona and character that every gunslinger since is compared to, and still today noone matches the talent and fearless approach that Blondie brings to the table in any gunfight. When you see him reach for his pistol it’s all over but the shot, and I promise you’ll never see that shot coming even then.