The 22 most badass movie beards ever


by Ali Plumb |
Published on

Let’s get down to it, ladies and gents: beards in movies are great. Beards keep you warm, beards look cool, and beards store food for you in case you get peckish later. And as an extra value-added bonus, beards also make you look ever-so-very-manly. Even if you normally look like a walking, talking mop with pipe cleaners for arms and a half-moon for a face, one beard strategically applied to your cheeks and suddenly you’re a hairy Adonis. To celebrate that fact, and rejoice in all the hirsute actors in Hollywood, here’s our 22 favourite movie characters with beards for you to stare at longingly.

The 'Gandalf'

Man behind the beard: Ian McKellen

Film: The Lord Of The Rings trilogy (2001-2003)

Character played: Gandalf the Grey / Gandalf the White.

Real or fake? Fake, alas.

Though the majority of famous bearded characters in this list are going to be full-on, thick and curly, semi-Santa, neck-chin-and-‘tache jobs, there was no way we couldn’t kick things off with Ian McKellen’s Gandalf beard – the longest, strongest, whitest beard cinema’s ever dared bring to the screen.

Supported by extensive hair streaming from his atop his wise ol' head, there are moments in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy where Gandalf looks like he’s mainly made out of hair, rather than, say, wizardy goodness. Still, it’s pretty understandable when you remember that he’s over 2000 years old – we reckon even the least hirsute members of Empire could whip up a decent bit of chin growth in a millennium or two. Hopefully, anyway.

The 'FedEx'

Man behind the beard: Tom Hanks

Film: Cast Away (2000)

Character played: Chuck Noland

Real or fake? Real

Want to get the Tom Hanks in Cast Away look? Well, what you need to do is become a FedEx employee, fly to Malaysia, get caught in a tropical storm, crash, wash ashore on an inflatable raft, speak to a volleyball with a face on it for four years, assemble another raft, then try to make your way home. Easy!

Then again, you could simply develop an allergy to scissors, trimmers or other cutting devices for a similar number of years, staying in the sun as much as possible to bleach your hair. Or, as an alternative alternative, you could buy a fake beard and stick it to your face. But that’d be a cop-out really, so don’t do that – go for the desert island option. We’re calling it the ‘Method beard’, and trust us, the ladies will appreciate the effort you went to...

The 'King Leonidas'

Man behind the beard: Gerard Butler

Film: 300 (2006)

King Leonidas

Character played: King Leonidas

Real or fake? Real

Here’s another badass movie beard-growing tip for you: if you want to make your manly beard even manlier, whip your top off. Revealing your waxed chest makes your beard seem bushier, your physical presence more presentable, and your abundant nasal hair sightly less obvious. At least, if you’re a member of Gerard Butler’s gym it does, as nearby ladyfolk will swoon and men want to fight you to the death. You know, in a good way.

If you accessorise with a cape, a buckler and/or a series of sharp and pointy spears, you’ve got yourself a look that Butler would want to sing about and no mistake. Just try not to start any all-out wars with Persia, there's a good chap.

The 'Unfriendly Muttonchops'

***Man behind the beard: ***Laurence Tureaud a.k.a. Mr. T

Film: Rocky III (1982)

Clubber Lang

Character played: Clubber Lang

Real or fake? Real.

For those not in the know, the beard that Mr. T is sporting as Clubber Lang in Rocky III is a variation on the old ‘Friendly Muttonchops’ staple often seen in musty Devonshire pubs, typically speckled with pie crust and pork scratchings and forever grateful for another pint of your finest ale please, young lady. But with a frown like T’s and a pair of sideburns that shoot up and around the ears, these pseudo-muttonchops are the least friendly we could possibly imagine, ever.

After all, it’s difficult to describe someone as “friendly” when they say things like: “I'll beat you like a dog, a dog, you fool!”, “Dead meat!” and “I'm gonna torture him. I'm gonna crucify him. Real bad.” Humph. What a rude man.

The 'Prince Vultan'

Man behind the beard: Brian Blessed

***Film: *** Flash Gordon (1980)

***Character played: ***Prince Vultan

Real or fake? Real


That just about covers it, right?

The 'Royal Muttonchops'

***Man behind the beard: ***Sean Connery

Film: The Man Who Would Be King (1975)

The Man Who Would Be King

Character played: Daniel Dravot

Real or fake? Real

Whereas Clubber Lang / Mr. T sported a pair of ‘Unfriendly Muttonchops’, Sir Sean's The Man Who Would Be King Daniel Dravot boasts a pair of cheek carpets so brilliantly bushy it’s no wonder the natives of Kafiristan proclaimed him as a god and whacked a crown on his beautiful bonce.

Admittedly, the villagers were more impressed by his apparent invulnerability – unless it was fear of the beard that deflected the arrow, not, say, a bandolier under his shirt – than his careful whisker-grooming, but whatever the weather, only Sir Sean could pull off this famous beard and still appear regal. That said, Prince William, if you were to grow Sean-like beard, you’d definitely get our vote. Wait, that’s not how it works, is it?

The ‘Nighthawk’

Man behind the beard: Sylvester Stallone

Film: Nighthawks (1981)


Character played: Detective Sergeant Deke DaSilva

Real or fake? Real

The one thing more impressive than his character’s name – Deke DaSilva – is Stallone’s chin-straddling facial hair. Forgoing cheek fuzz, our man Stallone ups the manliness factor by 670% by adding shades, a mini-mullet and a backwards flat cap. That, ladies and gentleman, is one sexy cop.

Bizarrely, the plot of Nighthawks was originally conceived as a potential storyline for The French Connection III, but when Gene Hackman turned down the chance to play Popeye again, the studio reworked it as a Stallone vehicle. But as we’re thinking in terms of famous bearded characters beards here, it’s probably just as well. Much as we love Gene, he couldn’t rock this beard. A ‘tache, of course – he’s the master of those – but one of this bad boys? Not even Doyle could get away with that one…

The 'Saddam'

Man behind the beard: George Clooney.

Film: Syriana (2005)


Character played: Bob Barnes

Real or fake? Real

Perhaps the most wonderful thing about Clooney’s beard in Syriana is the ever-so-reassuring wispy white hairs that poke out of it every so often. It’s these white hairs that help us mortals know that yes, yes indeed, George Clooney may well be human. Sure, he’s handsome, rich, powerful, nice and funny... but there are white hairs in his beard, and that makes him flawed. And distinguished. And somehow more handsome. Damn it.

Wait, no. When you squint he looks a bit like trial-period Saddam Hussein. Phew. All better now.

The 'Beard With No Name'

Man behind the beard: Clint Eastwood.

Film: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1967)

Character played: Blondie

Real or fake? Real

The majority of movie beards seen in this uber-manly list of facial topiary have been notable for their size, and that’s perfectly understandable. But as our man Clint proves, size isn’t everything.

Chewing on his cheroot, glowering from under his Stetson, The Man With No Name (or Blondie, or whatever you call him) boasts a beard that’s so aggressively grizzled that, were you to touch it, you’d cut yourself. It’s human steel wool, we swear it. You see, though Clint’s beard may not the biggest in the world, but it’s definitely one of the baddest. You know, not ‘bad meaning bad’ but ‘bad meaning good’. See Run DMC for details{ =nofollow}.

The 'Hans'/The 'Harry'

***Man behind the beard: ***Alan Rickman / Hart Bochner

Film: Die Hard (1988)

Hans Gruber

Character played: Hans Gruber / Harry Ellis

Real or fake? Real / real

It pains us to do a double-header in this feature, but it’s too tough a call to make: who has the better beard: Hans Gruber or Harry Ellis? Alan Rickman or Hart Bochner? There’s no doubt who plays the better character, of course – no offence Hart, you steal a good scene, but no-one can ever touch Hans – but when it comes to famous bearded characters, it really is too difficult to call.

So as a complete cop out, here are the two of them, side by side, and it’s up to you guys to make up your own mind. Our vote? Harry Ellis’s shaggy mess, complemented by his big shiny teeth and super-slick bullshitting skills. No, wait, Alan’s carefully trimmed number… Um, err, crap.

The 'Old English'

Man behind the beard: Al Pacino

Film: Serpico (1973)

Character played: Frank Serpico

Real or fake? Real

Over the course of the 12 years we see of Frank Serpico’s life, we see Pacino’s facial hair grow, piece-by-piece, year-by-year. There’s a little ‘tache, then a handlebar, then a full beard, then an even fuller beard, then a beard so beardy he ends up resembling his own faithful hound, which, needless to say, is an Old English Sheepdog.

It is nothing short of a facial hair odyssey, and a must-watch for anyone who likes either: Al Pacino; exceptionally good acting; exceptionally good filmmaking; watching men grow big beards on screen. And if you’re reading this article, you’re probably someone who likes the lot, you excellent human being, you.

The 'White Eyebrow'

***Man behind the beard: ***Chia Hui Liu

Film: Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 (2003-2004)

Character played: Pai Mei

Real or fake? Fake

When all’s said and done, Pai Mei is a show off. Not only is he the uber-boss of all things kung fu, he’s also the teacher of such esteemed death-bringers as The Bride, Bill, and Elle. Plus, he can execute the stupidly-lethal Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique. What. A. Show-off.

And as for his facial fuzz, that’s just too far, mister. Your name means “white eyebrow”, so we can forgive you the lower-forehead fur, but what about ludicrous beard-flick-laughing-thing you keep doing? And that bun on your head? And the waterfall-like white strands of hair that fall out from all sides of your face? You look like a wally. A seriously badass, ultimately very frightening, white-haired wally. Um, please don’t kill us.

The 'Man'

Man behind the beard: Viggo Mortensen

Film: The Road (2009)

Character played: Man

Real or fake? Real

There are a few things that we learned from watching The Road. One, in the future, we’ll all start eating each other a bit and generally being pretty rude. Two, actors from Deadwood (Garret Dillahunt) and The Wire (Michael Kenneth Williams) will attack people and steal their stuff. Three, beards – specifically movie characters with beards – are back, and in a big way. Seriously, everyone’s wearing one.

Beards are so fashionable at the end of days It’s only women, children and extra-weird weirdos that don’t have beards. The king of the post-apocalyptic beard wearers – the one all the cannibal fashionistas are desperate to meet – is Viggo, whose raggedy tramp look really brings out his well-defined cheekbones. Nice one Viggo, loving your work!

The 'Thing'

Man behind the beard: Kurt Russell

Film: The Thing (1982)

The Thing

Character played: R.J. MacReady

Real or fake? Real

One of the taglines for John Carpenter's The Thing was “Man is the warmest place to hide.” This is not quite the case: Kurt Russell’s famous beard – attached to a man, admittedly – is the warmest place to hide. We know this because it’s so bushy and luscious and thick and so on, and combined with his shades and long hair, make Mr. Russell look like Cousin It’s marginally less hairy, um, cousin.

The 'Jailbird'

Man behind the beard: Harrison Ford

Film: The Fugitive (1993)

The Fugitive

Character played: Dr. Richard Kimble

Real or fake? Real

It’s surprising that we haven’t seen any other “jail beards” so far this list, but with this one being such a cracker we really hope you don’t mind. After all, this is Han Solo / Indiana Jones / Harrison Ford we’re talking about, on the run from Tommy Lee Jones and his trusty team of idiots.

So it’s a shame we don’t have more on screen beardy time with Harrison after he pegs it off the crashed bus, really. Still, the scene where he hacks off half his identifying face fuzz with a pair of scissors before shaving the rest off like a raving madman could well be the tensest beard-shaving scene in cinematic history – something we don’t say lightly.

The 'Oceanographer'

Man behind the beard: Bill Murray

Film: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)

***Character played: ***Steve Zissou

Real or fake? Real

That red hat, that strong gaze, that white/grey beard… Steve Zissou is one hell of a human being. This is a man who can take on dozens of pirates armed just with one pistol, a light-blue dressing gown, a pair of Speedos and a beard. Sure, he only uses the gun as an actual weapon, but the whole look definitely adds to the intimidation factor.

Plus, he’s got one hell of a right hook. Seriously, he’ll sucker-punch his son as soon as look at him and WHAMMO! You’ve got a bloody nose on your hands. We think his immense power has to be down to his beard, Samson-style. That or the red hat. Probably the hat, actually. Bugger.

The 'Silent Bob'

Man behind the beard: Kevin Smith

Film: Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)

Silent Bob

***Character played: ***Silent Bob

Real or fake? Real

Say what you like about Kevin Smith – and God knows you will – but he’s definitely committed to the whole beard thing. Unlike some actors and directors who only occasionally drop the beard bomb, Mr. Smith professed his love to the God Of Beards way back when and has maintained his chin shrine ever since.

What's more, he’s one of the few Hollywood types unafraid of indulging a good neck beard – none of this just-the-goatee Ben Affleck bullshit, no way, no how. Actually, come to think of it, just try imagining Kevin Smith without a beard… horrible, isn’t it? Urgh. Just wrong.

The 'Wolf Pack'

Man behind the beard: Zach Galifianakis

Film: The Hangover (2009)

Alan Garner

Character played: Alan Garner

Real or fake? Real

When you look into Zach Galifianakis’s beard, it’s like staring into a black hole, a hypnotist’s dangling wristwatch and the gaping mouth of the devil himself all at the same time. It is, in fact, nothing short of one hell of a beard, a beard so brazenly beardy it has some people in giggles just at the sight of it; others, recoiling in fear and reaching for the nearest pair of safety scissors.

Bringing the chuckles back into beardland has been a one-man effort from Zach, and thanks to him, and only him, beards in movies are funny again. Seeing a character with a beard – okay, a character with a big beard– is now comedy catnip. So thanks, Zach, for making beards ridiculous again, you big, hairy man.

The 'Cap'n Jack'

Man behind the beard: Johnny Depp

Film: Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl (2003)

Character played: Jack Sparrow

Real or fake? We’re not sure

And you thought we’d forget ol’ Jack Sparra… we wouldn’t dare! Sure, his beard isn't that large, and his face has got some massive hairless patches here and there, but it does have those two dangly jobbies under his chin, and for those dangly jobbies alone, Mr. Depp deserves a place on Empire’s most badass movie beards hall of fame. That said, we're not so sure about that eye make-up Jack – Seriously, when do you get the time inbetween being cheeky and piratey and swarthy and so on to get out the eyeliner? We guess we'll never know...

The 'Dude'

Man behind the beard: Jeff Bridges

Film: The Big Lebowski (1998)

Jeff Bridges as The Dude in The Big Lebowski

Character played: Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Real or fake? Real

Keen-eyed bearded characters enthusiasts might have noticed a recurring absence of goatees in this list – and that’s because goatees are lame. Very, very lame. But The Dude is so damn cool, so damn laid back, and, most importantly, so damn good at bowling that he’s the definitive exception to the otherwise infallible “goatees are lame” rule. Seriously, just look at the thing… it really does tie his face together.

The 'Fist'

Man behind the beard: Chuck Norris

Film: Almost every Chuck Norris Movie ever (1968-Present)

Chuck Norris

Character played: A number of apparently distinct versions of his “Chuck Norris” persona

Real or fake? Real

Apparently underneath his beard, there’s another fist. Whether that’s true or not, we couldn’t say – all we do know is that we don’t want to find out. Ever.

The 'Hagrid'

Man behind the beard: Robbie Coltrane

Films: The Harry Potter Series (2001-2011)


Character played: Rubeus Hagrid

Real or fake? Fake

Now when it comes to picking a bearded character from the Harry Potter franchise, you’re probably all expecting Dumbledore, aren’t you? Well, we would include Dumbledore, but for these following two reasons: One, Dumbley’s beard is just too similar to Gandalf’s, and Gandalf's the boss and two, Hagrid’s beard is so stupendously large it looks like it’s eaten everyone else’s beard and absorbed it into a massive, face-based hair cloud.

Seriously, look at that mother. It is, without a doubt, the biggest beard on this list. Shame it’s not real, sure, but you’d have to be one hell of a method actor to be willing to grow something that absurdly gigantic all about your face. Just looking it, your neck feels itchy. Still, he is a half-giant, so there’s not reason to be jealous, right? Right?

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