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John McClane in Die Hard
Yippee-Ki-Yay, Motherfucker. Willis’ skillful, angry Irish American detective first busted onto the scene in 1988’s Die Hard, and in the two plus decades since, he’s been in four hit movies with a fifth slated for release in 2013. He routinely finds himself near the top of movie badasses lists, and he remains one of the more beloved action characters in cinematic history. A combination of clever, wiseass remarks and brutal efficiency, he’s an extremely entertaining watch, and he’ll likely always be the first character people relate Willis to.

One of the reasons why McClane works so well is because he’s not really the type of guy you expect things to work out for. He’s too much of a loose cannon to be a stable husband to Holly. He’s got so much pride and pent-up aggression. Luckily, all of those qualities that make him a shitty family man make him a cop who shouldn’t be fucked with, and really, that’s all most of us care about anyway. Anybody can get married. Few people can pick off terrorists one by one and throw their leader out of a window.

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Korben Dallas in The Fifth Element
Of all the cab drivers in the universe to randomly get, I’m not sure there’s one on Earth as ready and able to eviscerate extraterrestrial threats as Willis’ Korben Dallas. A former Major in the Special Forces, he’s a bit of a nut job, but he knows his way around weapons and has all the bravery and stupidity needed to go up against a force far greater than his own. To some, the over-the-top weirdness of The Fifth Element itself obscures a bit of Willis’ trademark scariness, but to me, it’s just proof he can adapt his brand of terrifying to any genre.

Dallas also deserves inclusion here if for no other reason than he shoots an alien in the face in the middle of negotiations. That’s not really something people do, especially when they’re far and away outnumbered by the victim’s sidekicks, but it certainly worked out for the best here.

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