With the arrival of James Wan’s DC film Aquaman last year, Jason Momoa finally achieved the movie star potential he has shown for so long. The film grossed over $1.1 billion worldwide and cemented the actor’s place on the big screen for years to come. But while Aquaman is no doubt Jason Momoa’s biggest role, it is far from his first or most badass.
Jason Momoa has been an actor for two decades and in the time since he got his start on that pillar of 90s television Baywatch, he has become known for playing a very specific type of character. Basically, whether he’s playing a superhero from an underwater kingdom, an alien from a far off planet, a frontiersman from the past or anything in between, Jason Momoa almost always plays a badass.
It makes total sense; the 6’4” muscle-bound actor is tall, dark and can grow a great beard, so he isn’t going to be playing a meek accountant or the shy guy in a comedy. He looks and sounds like a tough badass and that’s what plays. But what are Jason Momoa’s most badass roles, which are the characters that you’d least want to trifle with?
Here are Jason Momoa’s most badass roles on both TV and the big screen over the past few years since he started to become a household name.
Bullet to the Head (Keegan)
While we often use the term ‘badass’ as a compliment, it can still apply to villainous characters as it does for Keegan in Bullet to the Head. Jason Momoa’s most famous roles see him playing a hero, but in this film he plays the villain opposite Sylvester Stallone’s protagonist. Bullet to the Head finds Sly’s hitman teaming up with Taylor Kwon’s D.C. detective when their respective partners are killed as part of a mobster’s plot.
That mobster isn’t easy to take down though, in large part because he has enlisted the help of Jason Momoa’s Keegan, a skilled hitman and former mercenary. Bullet to the Head is a pretty standard action/crime movie, but with Sly and Jason Momoa’s charismatic villain, it is highly watchable entertainment. Oh yeah, speaking of those two, their characters’ final battle with one another sees them squaring off with axes. Very badass.
The Bad Batch (Miami Man)
It takes a certain kind of person to be able to eat another human being. You have to be either crazy, desperate, or badass? I’m not sure about that last one, but in 2016’s The Bad Batch, Jason Momoa’s Miami Man is one badass cannibal. The Bad Batch is set in a dystopian near-future where undesirable members of society (the bad batch), including Suki Waterhouse’s protagonist Arlen, are sent to a desert and left to their own devices to survive. There she meets Jason Momoa’s Miami Man, leader of a group of cannibals.
Far from being a mindless people-eater, Miami Man is a sensitive artist who has managed to survive in this harsh world and is now looking for his daughter. He has a protective spirit and in a badass display of butcher knife-throwing, saves Arlen from another cannibal who wanted to trade gasoline for a meal. The Bad Batch is most certainly not going to be for everyone; it’s a weird and not easily accessible film, but one that also deserves merit for originality and features a slightly different, yet still badass performance compared to what we are used to seeing from Momoa.
Braven (Joe Braven)
Being a badass doesn’t always mean being a highly trained killer or a fierce representative of a warrior race, sometimes it just means having the courage and the will to do what is necessary when the situation arrives. That is the case for Jason Momoa’s Joe Braven in the 2018 movie Braven. The film stars the actor as a family man and the owner of a logging company who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time when a drug lord’s product winds up at his mountain cabin.
When he is unable to reason with Garret Dillahunt’s Kassen and with his father and young daughter with him at the cabin, Joe has to protect his family and fight off the drug lord and his mercenaries. He uses a bow and arrow, fireplace tongs, wooden spears, guns, a flaming hatchet and an ATV to take his pursuers out in brutal fashion. Braven is a capable, old-school action movie and one that shows that Jason Momoa can be a different type of on-screen badass.
Conan the Barbarian (Conan)
2011’s Conan the Barbarian was supposed to be the film that turned Jason Momoa into a movie star, launching his career in the way the 1982 film of the same name helped put Arnold Schwarzenegger on the map. That didn’t quite happen; instead, the film disappointed critically and commercially, but that doesn’t take away from how ferocious and tough Jason Momoa’s hero is.
The swords-and-sorcery action film, based on Robert E. Howard’s character, finds Jason Momoa’s Conan, the last survivor of a barbarian village, on a path of vengeance to kill the warlord that murdered his family. Conan is a badass in large part because of his skills as a warrior, but also what he chooses to do with those skills. Over the course of the film, Conan becomes a pirate, escapes imprisonment, kills a bunch of bad guys, gets his revenge, and even takes a page out of Daenerys Targaryen’s book, becoming a breaker of chains by helping slaves take their freedom.
Aquaman (Arthur Curry)
Who could have ever imagined that Aquaman, the superhero who talks to fish and the butt of endless jokes, would one day find himself on any list of badass characters? That’s an incredible feat that shows what a reinvention in the comics and casting Jason Momoa in the feature film can do for a character. Arthur Curry is a reluctant hero, but when the situation calls for him to rise up, he does just that, protecting the ocean and helping those in need.
He is effortlessly cool, and no matter how badly he gets beat up -- and he does -- he shows his resiliency and toughness by always getting back up to fight again. Aquaman proves himself worthy of wielding Atlan’s Trident, he defeats his brother Orm in battle, becomes king and, as Freddy Freeman would say, commands an army of billions in the ocean. That’s pretty badass. Oh and Jason Momoa also manages to make Aquaman’s traditional orange and green suit look cool.
Frontier (Declan Harp)
Frontier is a period drama on Netflix set in Canada in the late 1700s. It chronicles the cutthroat battle over the fur trade in North America between the monopolistic Hudson’s Bay Company and the independent trappers and entrepreneurs like Jason Momoa’s Declan Harp. Declan Harp is a part-Cree, part-Irish outlaw who is the head of the Black Wolf Company and he seeks revenge against the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Lord Benton.
It takes a truly badass and capable individual to survive in the harsh wilderness of such a brutal time period and Momoa’s Declan Harp is perhaps the most ruthless of them all. Infamous for his wild and violent nature, Declan is a clever negotiator and skilled businessman whose mythical status obscures a deeply wounded person who is tilting at windmills to make things right. Frontier is gory show and Declan Harp is the one spilling a lot of the blood. He may not be the most badass Jason Momoa character, but of all the characters on this list, he may be the one you’d least want to cross.
Stargate: Atlantis (Ronon Dex)
This spinoff show of Stargate: SG-1, itself based on the 1994 Stargate movie, follows an expedition to the Pegasus Galaxy where the lost city of Atlantis resides. The galaxy lives in fear of the vampire-like race called The Wraith, a telepathic and predatory species that culls humanity every few hundred years. Introduced in the second season of Stargate: Atlantis, Jason Momoa’s Ronon Dex quickly became a fan-favorite character and this is the role that first put the actor on the radar of many genre audiences.
Ronon Dex is introduced as a runner, a person implanted with a tracking chip by the Wraith that they hunt for sport. Basically, he is The Most Dangerous Game’s Sanger Rainsford, living a solitary life on the run and eluding a technologically advanced race’s best hunters. Once he joins the Atlantis Expedition, Ronon proves an invaluable member of the team, the most capable fighter, skilled in hand-to-hand combat, firearms and weaponry. Ronon is the character that established Jason Momoa as a badass and a decade after Stargate: Atlantis went off the air, he remains the actor’s most badass role, save for one.
Game of Thrones (Khal Drogo)
Oftentimes the most obvious answer is also the correct one. Probably Jason Momoa’s most recognizable role alongside Aquaman is that of Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones. Although his time on the show was brief, Khal Drogo is easily the actor’s most badass role. Drogo is the leader of a Khalasar of horse-lords, a culture that only values strength, where any sign of weakness would see him deposed. Even in this brutal culture, Khal Drogo thrives and stands apart, a fearless and legendary warrior that has never been defeated in battle.
We only get to see Jason Momoa’s Khal Drogo in battle once, but it is enough to make it clear just how capable this badass warrior is and why King Bobby B was right to fear the Dothraki coming to Westeros. When his wife Daenerys is insulted and he is challenged, Drogo drops his knives and kills his foe with his own weapon, ripping out his tongue in the process. If you didn’t know much of Jason Momoa before Game of Thrones, his unrivaled badassery in this massive show made sure you wouldn’t forget him.
Jason Momoa’s time playing tough, intimidating and wildly impressive characters that can only be described as badass won’t be coming to an end anytime soon. In addition to his bright future as Aquaman in Aquaman 2 and beyond, the actor has a couple of awesome projects lined up. One of them is reuniting with his Bad Batch director Ana Lily Amirpour for a cameo in her female-led Cliffhanger reboot. I’d have to imagine he’ll be playing a skilled climber in that film.
He is also part of the amazing cast of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. In that adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal sci-fi novel, he will play Duncan Idaho, the Swordmaster for House Atreides, a badass role if ever there was one. In addition, Jason Momoa will be starring in the new Apple original series titled See. In the dystopian sci-fi show he plays the fantastically named Baba Voss, a character described as a warrior, leader and guardian. In other words, a badass.
Check out our 2019 release schedule to keep track of all of this year’s biggest movies and let us know which of Jason Momoa’s characters you think is the most badass in the poll below.
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Nick grew up in Maryland has degrees in Film Studies and Communications. His life goal is to walk the earth, meet people and get into adventures. He’s also still looking for The Adventures of Pete and Pete season 3 on DVD if anyone has a lead.
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