Slam Adams’ Top 10 Guy Movies
Ever since I saw The Grey in the beginning of the year, I have found myself on a “guy movie” binge. The Grey’s surprisingly thoughtful look at masculinity opened my eyes to what many of these movies had to offer much of which I was blind to in my youth when I saw them for the first time. Here are my Top 10 Guy Movies.
Just so we are clear, let me try my best to define the subgenre (pseudogenre) that is “guy movies.” Guy movies are any movie whose major themes, content, and visuals have a stereotypical appeal to the male audience.
10. Diner (1983)
Diner is Barry Levinson’s semi-autobiographical tale about high school friends dealing with the on-set of adulthood in 1959. The titular location is their go-to hang out spot. While the lingo and style of the characters captures the era perfectly, there is something universal about the chemistry between friends that makes you think back to all those bonehead nights when you were driving too fast or drinking too much. Who doesn’t have a story about trying to collect your drunk friend off private property before the cops show up or paying more attention to your friend trying to make a move on a girl than the movie you paid to see just so you can bust his chops when he fails miserably. With these kind of antics making up the bulk of the story, the fact that one of the characters concocted a sports quiz to make sure his fiance was worthy to be married makes a little more sense than it should.
Alternative viewing: Swingers (1996)
9. Braveheart (1995)
There is something about history that sparks interest in every guy. I think it has to do with legacy. What kind of stories will they tell about us after we are dead and buried? We would all be so lucky to have our lives turn out half as fantastical as William Wallace’s, which is chronicled in Mel Gibson’s Best Picture winner, Braveheart. Gibson, as both the star and director, portrays a passionate bravery worthy of idolizing. At the same time, Mel chews the scenery with all sorts of impossibly cheesy dialog that has made it a favorite amongst men to quote over and over as a respectful parody.
Alternative viewing: 300 (2006)
8. The Sandlot (1993)
Growing up in America, I was taught the real men play baseball. That baseball is our nation’s pastime and the people you meet and the lessons you learn while playing will stay with you through your whole life. Now, that is a little romantic for my taste, but there is no denying the magic that baseball can inspire. As a kid, I always hated playing baseball, but I loved The Sandlot because for that duration I saw the magic that most see in baseball. Even when I watch it as an adult, it whisks me away to a simpler time when kids could be kids and games with friends were are all that mattered.
Alternative viewing: Field of Dreams (1989)
7. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966)
Sometimes the characteristics of guy movies can be contradictory. Sometimes they are about honor and nobility and sometimes they are about violence and danger. The more memorable ones are about those glimpses of honor and nobility that bleed through violent and dangerous scenarios and locales. Nothing has captured that more clearly than the American western, relating to American culture the way the samurai films relate to Japanese. The Good (Clint Eastwood), The Bad (Lee Van Cleef), and The Ugly (Eli Wallach) are a trio of gunslingers venturing across a Civil War-torn America in search of buried treasure. They would rather kill each other than share a loaf of bread, forget an entire treasure. Nevertheless, no matter how rough around the edges these boys are, they prove themselves when the time comes.
Alternative viewing: The Wild Bunch (1969)
6. Goodfellas (1990)
I am not sure what it is about gangster movies that grab people’s interest, mine included. They are always presented as these charming go-getters and their clever rise to power only to fall. And fall hard! There certainly nothing to look up to in Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill. No one aspires to be a coke addict who cheats on his wife and is loyal to an organization that will only recognize him so far because he is half-Irish (if I remember correctly). It comes down to guilty pleasure. It is the darker side of machismo.
Alternative viewing: Reservoir Dogs (1992)
5. Stripes (1981)
Stripes may in fact be one of the funniest comedies I have ever seen, due to in no small part to Bill Murray, who leads the eclectic group of society refugees trying to find some guidance and/or meaning in the strict Army regimen. Stripes basically takes a look at masculinity through a kaleidoscope of male fantasy where the MP’s are sexpots, an RV can be the next step in military weaponry, and a slacker attitude can get you further than you ever dreamed.
Alternative viewing: Animal House (1978)
4. Dirty Harry (1971)
We’ve all got a little hero complex in us. We want to be remembered not just for being a good person, but as someone larger than life who was willing to take action when no one else is. All of that becomes easier to accomplish when you have a police badge and the biggest goddamn handgun I have ever seen, like Dirty Harry does. Harry gets his nickname because he has a bad attitude and zero tolerance for the scum of San Francisco, almost to a comical degree. Thanks to Eastwood’s steely resolve what would have sounded much to different coming from other actors came out sounding like the most badass lines ever spoken.
Alternative viewing: Death Wish (1974)
3. Die Hard (1988)
Die Hard is about a group of terrorists who have taken a near-empty office building hostage except for the off-duty cop, John McLane, who has taken refuge in the building’s air vents. Unlike Dirty Harry, McLane has less of a hero complex and more like an instinctive urge to rebel. He’s not going to be told what to do. Not by his police captain. Not by the FBI who think they are controlling the situation. And certainly not by the terrorists that seem to hold all the cards. What makes him likable is that while rebelling is he smirks and cracks wise and takes the utmost enjoyment in how big of a “fly in the oinment, the monkey in the wrench” he can be.
Alternative viewing: Lethal Weapon (1987)
2. Rocky (1976)
Rocky is about a below average Joe who dreams big about becoming a boxing star. The film series as a whole depicts a rags to riches to rags story of a professional athlete who learns that integrity means more than any paycheck. The old adage we were taught as kids was, “it is not whether you win or lose, but its how you played the game. ” As kids, you can’t help but scoff at that line. It is just something parents say so the kids aren’t discouraged when they lose, but writer/actor Sylvester Stallone really reaches the heart of that statement. It is not about winning or losing but challenging yourself and taking the opportunities when they present themselves. It is as much about earning the respect of the people around you as it is about earning your own self-respect.
Alternative viewing: Rocky Balboa (2006)
1. Slap Shot
Slap Shot is one of the most vulgar and profane movies I have ever seen, or maybe it just seems that way. Anyway, I cannot get enough of it. One of cinema’s coolest cats, Paul Newman leads a ragtag minor league hockey team that resorts to more violence than usual to get butts in the seats before they are sold to another city. There aren’t many movies where the bulk of the cast spend the run-time fist-fighting, drinking, swearing, and getting laid and than not learn how to be better people by the end. Or even be better hockey players. Hell, the movie closes with a parade in their honor. The closest thing they get to a revelation is one of their teammates who is sick of fighting decides to do a strip tease on the ice which everyone proceeds to laugh at. Don’t go looking for any subliminal take on masculinity or the human condition here, this is just basically an adaptation of locker room talk.
Alternative viewing: Caddyshack