Ranking Renner: Who Are His Best Characters?

Jeremy Renner in 28 Weeks Later
(Image credit: Fox Atomic)

I’m going to tell you something you probably already figured out for yourself at one point or another: Jeremy Renner is awesome. After spending years under the radar, the actor has absolutely blown up in the past five, earning two Academy Award nominations and taking three roles in some of the biggest action franchises currently running. But how do his five greatest characters stack up against each other?

We here at the Cinema Blend laboratories have set out to find the answer to that very question. Using a highly complex mathematical formula (not really), the staff here has worked to determine what we are calling the Renner Rankings. Judging based on brains, quick thinking, attitude, strength and weaponry we have determined which of Renner’s characters stand higher than the rest and have agreed upon an ultimate victor. Check it out!

5. Clint "Hawkeye" Barton, The Avengers

Admittedly this is the role in the batch where Renner may get the least amount of screentime, but true to form, he made every moment count. Though Hulk smashed, Iron Man quipped, and Captain America played the noble hero, Hawkeye and his longtime friend and colleague Natasha "Black Widow" Romanoff earned enough fan love to inspire hopes for a spin-off of their own.

There's been plenty of archers kicking ass with bows and arrows in theaters this year. But when it comes to weaponry, Brave's Merida and Hunger Games' Katniss can't compete with Hawkeye, who deftly kept pace with his super-powered colleagues. Barton's bow packed a spectacular wallop thanks in part to his arrows assorted add-ons and his deadly aim. But he loses points on intellect since he's a brainwashed minion of Loki for much of the film. However, Barton proved his incredible strength in his fast and furious fight with Romanoff, who ultimately and literally knocked some sense back into him. From there we got an intimate scene where the two allude to a dark shared past and Renner gets to show off why he’s become the modern master of moody brooding.


Brains: 4.5

Quick Thinking: 5.3

Attitude: 6.8

Strength: 7.8

Weapons: 8.5


4. James Coughlin, The Town

James Coughlin isn’t the brains of the bank-robbing operation at the heart of Ben Affleck’s The Town. Coughlin often defers to best friend Doug’s lead, and is regularly ready to follow his leader into battle, usually with no questions asked. But as you can tell from our tabulated scores, Coughlin leads with a hot-headed, can’t-back-down Southie attitude. He’s street smart instead of book smart. His aggression helps keep him alive, but at the same time, his fly-off-the-handle passion would bring the crime ring to a grinding halt if he had to make key decisions instead of Doug. Imagine James sitting across the interrogation table from FBI agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm)? The Town might have ended an hour earlier, with the career criminals behind bars.

Granted, when the chips are on the table and the bullets are flying around Fenway Park, Coughlin can handle a semi-automatic weapon (which is why his Strength and Weapons scores are better than average). If James had retained half the common sense God gave him, might be watching that Florida sunset right alongside Doug, instead of bleeding out on a nondescript Boston boulevard.


Brains: 5.8

Quick Thinking: 6.3

Attitude: 8.5

Strength: 7.3

Weapons: 6.7


3. William Brandt, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

William Brandt is a smart, highly capable and extremely intelligent analyst for the Impossible Missions Force who was never supposed to see action, but who's totally killer at it once he's thrown into the field. His only problem? He's forced to team up with Ethan Hunt, the superstar agent who's there to outshine him at every turn. Everything Brandt can do, Hunt can do better, from setting up an insane scheme to filch some nuclear launch codes to actually scaling the side of the world's tallest building to make it happen.

That makes it a little tough to appreciate Brandt's skills for themselves, especially when his skepticism kind of drives everybody else on the team crazy, but he eventually gets to come into his own, using a completely looney-tunes suit made of magnets to pull off the next scheme. Floating effortlessly above a giant fan that could easily chop him into bits, Brandt uses all that book-learning to keep his cool, but the added benefit of his physical strength to make it happen. He's not the biggest badass in this bunch, and he's always going to have to live in Ethan Hunt's shadow, but once Brandt unbuttons his white-collar shirt and shows off what he can do, he's exactly the guy you need for your next impossible mission.


Brains: 8.2

Quick Thinking: 6.2

Attitude: 6.7

Strength: 7

Weapons: 7


2. Aaron Cross, The Bourne Legacy

Okay, so he whines like a crack addict every time that he spends more than a few hours off of his “chems,” but the truth remains that Aaron cross is a badass of the highest order and does Jason Bourne’s legacy proud. Thanks to his altered genetic code – which, admittedly, does give him a bit of an unfair advantage over the other Renner’s in this feature – Cross is incredibly strong and agile, giving him the ability to take down rooms full of adversaries that want to kill him or turn him into the government.

But that’s only the benefit of the green chems. We can’t ignore the blue chems that ratchet his strategy and critical thinking abilities through the roof. While he doesn’t always have a gun, give him a fire extinguisher and a box of nails and he’ll get the job done. He knows how to outrun powerful adversaries in all kinds of transportation, and in mere moments he can produce a plan of attack for when he’s being surrounded or threatened. There’s a very good reason that the Central Intelligence Agency and the Outcome program wants him dead: he’s a very powerful enemy.


Brains: 7.3

Quick Thinking: 8

Attitude: 7.3

Strength: 8.3

Weapons: 6.3


1. Sergeant First Class William James, The Hurt Locker

Sergeant First Class William James is not only Jeremy Renner’s best performance, an Oscar nomination came from Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, but also his highest ranking character in almost every category. James’ line of work doesn’t just require guts and the right loose screws, he’s also got brains and the ability to pull the trigger or cut a wire in a heartbeat, often with a clock counting down to his death staring him in the face. The ‘Wildman’ may not possess the ideal military attitude - disobeying orders, drinking heavily and striking superior officers - however, it’s hard to argue his mental state with 873 plus bombs under his belt.

Perhaps not the strongest physically, it takes an unbelievable will to do what SFC James does on a daily basis, just look at the expanding cracks in his squadmates’ psyches. Working for the bomb unit does allow him to get his hands on heavy (and sometimes, darkly twisted) artillery but his motto is more defuse than use. Doesn’t mean he won’t come at you (even off base) with one of the many automatic weapons at his disposal if you cross him before cooling off with a shower. Helmet optional.


Brains: 8.5

Quick Thinking: 9.5

Attitude: 8.7

Strength: 7.3

Weapons: 7.8