the 50 best 'guy
movies' of all
January 22, 2004
By Franklin Harris
It's time once again to dissect a "best of" movie list. Our newest contestant comes to us via the December issue of Men's Journal magazine, still on newsstands. It's a list of the 50 best "guy movies" of all time.
Guy movies are almost a genre unto themselves, but they fall into a few broad categories: action movies (including war movies and westerns), sports movies and comedies. Guy movies are never musicals, unless you count "The Blues Brothers." They don't involve people coming to terms with their feelings, and they don't star Meryl Streep or Julia Roberts. Right away you can see that while the original "Ocean's Eleven" may be a first-class guy movie, the remake is for pansies. That is the difference between Roberts on the one hand and Angie Dickinson on the other.
Men's Journal's list is pretty solid, although one could quibble with the exact rankings. The usual suspects are here, including "Dirty Harry" at No. 1, "Dr. No" at No. 12, "Bloody Sam" Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch" at No. 23 and "Slap Shot" at No. 43. There are a few pleasant surprises, like the inclusion of the woefully underrated "The Big Lebowski" at No. 28 and Richard Linklater's ode to slackers, "Dazed and Confused," at No. 47. But there is no way you can convince me that "The Matrix" belongs on the list, much less at the lofty position of No. 8. "The Matrix" is a geek movie with bullets, not a guy movie. An essential element of any guy movie is that other guys want to be the guy in the movie. Nobody I know wants to be Keanu Reeves. Sure, they might like to be able to do the things Reeves' character does, but that's hardly the same thing.
My favorite of the magazine's picks is No. 34: "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," although I prefer list no-show "For a Few Dollars More," which gives a bigger part to the only man to ever upstage Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef.
The editors at Men's Journal top off their list by throwing in "Kill Bill Vol. 1" as the best guy movie of 2003, which it is, even though Uma Thurman chops most of the guys in it into sushi. Off-camera bad guy Bill (David Carradine) is as cool as they come.
Scott Meyer covered much the same territory, although in greater detail, in his 1997 book, "The Guys' Guide to Guys' Videos," which explores everything from "Amazon Women on the Moon" to "Yojimbo." Meyer also throws in a helpful chapter on movies that look like guy movies but aren't. I call such movies "chick flicks in drag." These are films like "Bull Durham" or, come to think of it, most any movie starring Kevin Costner. The man could turn Robin Hood into a wimp. And he did.
I did get a laugh, however, out of one film included on Men's Journal's list (No. 11) and in Meyer's book: "Full Metal Jacket." And I'm sure the movie's director, Stanley Kubrick, would have found its inclusion on a list of guy movies amusing, too.
The whole film is about the impotence of male power. (Look! A pun!) The Parris Island sequence has drill sergeant R. Lee Ermey teaching his recruits all about the difference between their rifle and their gun. (One is for fighting, the other for fun.) But what happens to our cast of young marines as soon as they get to Vietnam? I'll tell you what happens: Half their unit gets slaughtered by a single Vietnamese girl with a gun — I mean rifle.
That, guys, is irony.