Ten Heroic Masculine Movies: What they Say About our Importance as Men

Masculine movies are important because they tell stories, transmit values and reflect widespread values and beliefs on masculinity. In this sense they are like barometers of prevailing views, and can tell us of the health of masculinity in a culture. They also influence mass culture that consumes them. In this sense they are like navigational beacons. They can help or hinder, confuse or clarify for boys and men on their journey to greater authentic masculinity but also instruct how to do what is good or destructive for our cultures. Ask yourself, do movies you watch encourage men to protect the innocent? Do they depict men serving and providing for others? Do they encourage men to be humble and prayerful? Do masculine movies teach men to lead or the importance of reading the signs of the times around them so they can be prophets and help steer their families and their culture in a healthy direction? We know this: Traditional (what we at Authentic Masculinity call authentic) masculinity has been under attack since the 1960s. Interestingly, though, traditional, authentic masculine movies continue to have an appeal for popular audiences around the world. Why? We think it’s because masculine movies deliver a potent, important, even refreshing message people know is true. We think masculine movies endure because masculinity is important, men are important, and masculine men are especially important when some voices exploit confusion about the sexes and sow discord between the sexes by ridiculing masculinity and ridiculing men. Masculine movies—movies men like because they are for and about men—are important because healthy, traditional, authentic masculinity is important. Above all they provide insight on five vital privileges applicable in any culture: We are protectors, providers, princes, priests and prophets. As protectors we protect the innocent, the beautiful and the good. As providers we sacrifice to provide so others—usually those we protect– can do more important things. As princes we lead, reconcile and adjudicate. As priests we revere—and ensure we are seen to revere– what is holy. So doing, we interact with God and take his counsel on behalf, in a way, of others—first our inner circle, those we protect and provide for, but then the wider community. If healthy, masculine men do not serve in these five privileges, someone else will and the culture will suffer. We’ve decided to nominate 10 movies—some current, others classic—that set good examples of men fulfilling the vital roles men must fill in any healthy society. They’re not in any particular order. Let me know what you think.

1. A Bronx Tale (1993)A father becomes worried when a local gangster befriends his son in the Bronx in the 1960s. Provider, protector, prophet: A masculine movie about a man who protects and provides for those he loves while heroically warning those around him by his good example.

2. The Book of Eli (2010)A post-apocalyptic tale, in which a lone man fights his way across America in order to protect a sacred book that holds the secrets to saving humankind. Prophet and protector: A masculine movie about a dangerous man, mindful of the perils his society faces, taking action to protect it.

3. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)World War II American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people, and becomes the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot. Priest and protector: Man as prayerful, reverent hero.

4. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)An angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed. A masculine movie about a heroic provider. Provider and prophet: A man doing the difficult, tedious right thing to protect both his family and his society.

5. Jeremiah Johnson (1972)A mountain man who wishes to live the life of a hermit becomes the unwilling object of a long vendetta by Indians, and proves to be a match for their warriors in one-on-one combat on the early frontier. Protector, prince and provider: A masculine movie about sacrifice, courage and refusal to submit in the face of insurmountable odds.

6. John Wick (2014)An ex-hit-man comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that killed his dog and took everything from him. Protector and prince: Man as vengeful, ruthless and heroic leader in the face of overwhelming odds.

7. Last of the Mohicans (1992)Three trappers protect the daughters of a British Colonel in the midst of the French and Indian War. Protector and prince: Man as moral and courageous agent of justice in violent times.

8. Man on Fire (2004)In Mexico City, a former assassin swears vengeance on those who committed an unspeakable act against the family he was hired to protect. Protector and prince: A masculine movie about a man who protects, avenges and offers himself as a sacrifice for the innocent, the beautiful and the good.

9. The Accountant (2016)As a math savant un-cooks the books for a new client, the Treasury Department closes in on his activities, and the body count starts to rise. Protector, prince and prophet: Man as vengeful and wounded heroic righter of wrong in an ambiguous time.

10. The Equalizer (2014)A man believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and has dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when he meets a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can’t stand idly by—he has to help her. Protector and prince: A masculine movie about a man who teaches and sets the example by reluctantly but effectively avenging wrongs done to the beautiful, the innocent and the good.

Remember—masculine movies are important. They tell stories, transmit values and reflect widespread values and beliefs on masculinity. They tell us the health of masculinity in our cultures and they influence our culture. Masculine movies are like navigational beacons—they can help or hinder, confuse or clarify for boys and men on their journey to greater authentic masculinity. Gentlemen, the world needs what you have—your own authentic masculinity. Give the world your best and encourage other men to do so as well.

Shannon McGurk