This weekend, with the release of "Green Lantern," America gets to continue its love affair with Canadian star Ryan Reynolds and his torso. Shirtless or more in almost every movie he's appeared in this decade, the actor's sex appeal appears to be one of the film's most obvious selling points. Warner Bros., anxious about the new franchise, would certainly love it if women (and some men, of course) are drawn to the theater this weekend to see People Magazine's 2010 Sexiest Man Alive unencumbered by a shirt, and in 3D.
It remains to be seen whether that particular aspect of the film's marketing is going to work. But in the meantime, it seems more than appropriate to distract ourselves with an inspired and ridiculous list. While I've titled this post the "Best Abs on Film," as one often titles things, this is really more of a "Most Entertaining Abs on Film." Some of these would certainly sit high up on either, but after a while just staring at pictures of these men actually gets kind of boring (surprising, I know). So here's an assortment of clips both impressive and ridiculous, a trashy and sweaty trip down memory lane. Enjoy.
Brad Pitt in "Fight Club"
Perhaps the most iconic abs on this list, Tyler Durden's physique is also not available in video form on the web, at least nowhere I could find. That being said, I think it's probably for the best - somehow Brad Pitt's late-90s torso looks better stationary. However, if you're interested in getting work-out advice regarding how to get "Fight Club Abs," there are countless videos on YouTube. Countless.
The Men of "300"
These Spartan warriors are so buff that one questions the validity of their musculature. The bodies of Gerard Butler, Michael Fassbender and the rest of the film's scantily clad warriors are so obviously tinkered-with and computer enhanced that if this list were at all serious, they'd be disqualified. However, I think it's fair to say no one is bothered by this "cheating." The omnipresent abdominals of "300" are more than just a supporting cast, but pretty quickly end up as one of the principal components of the film's atmosphere and aesthetic. Unfortunately, most of the clips on the web aren't embeddable, so here's the still substantially ab-ridden trailer..
The Boys of "Twilight"
Another obvious choice, well-defined abs are a prerequisite to being cast in Stephanie Meyer's boy-crazy undead romance. Robert Pattinson, Kellan Lutz, Cam Gigandet, and a wide variety of other shirtless vampires and werewolves populate this strange universe in which half-naked men and abstinence-obsessed sexual repression exist side by side. No one's abs have achieved greater recognition out of the series than Taylor Lautner's, showcased in the following clip that thankfully acknowledges its own absurdity.
"Top Gun" Volleyball
Moving a few years back, "Top Gun" provides us with one of the most familiar pieces of totally unnecessary male shirtless activity in movie history. It's the kind of completely ridiculous filmmaking that makes a list like this possible. Here's Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer in one of the most absurdly homoerotic sporting events ever filmed.
Marlon Brando in "A Streetcar Named Desire"
Now, the ideal physique was a bit different back in the days of Classic Hollywood. Well-defined abs weren't much of a hot commodity, and male stars didn't even go shirtless particularly often. Yet Marlon Brando's performance in "Streetcar" is one of those timeless miracles that seems worthy of being on almost any list conceivable. And this particular scene, Stanley Kowalski coming home and changing out of his sweaty work clothes in front of his newly-arrived sister-in-law, is so steamy you might need to steady yourself on the furniture.
Rain in "Ninja Assassin"
Rain, while an extraordinarily talented and successful singer/actor/model/dancer/etc back in Korea, is perhaps mostly known in the US for his mind-boggling physique. And "Ninja Assassin" delivers on that count, despite failing on many others. Who needs a compelling thought-out narrative, anyway?
Ryan Reynolds in Anything
As I said earlier, I think Ryan Reynolds has been at least shirtless in every movie he's ever made. A possible exception might be 2009's "Paper Man," in which he's in a skin-tight superhero costume instead. He's got the most dependable abs in the business. And while I couldn't bring myself to post a clip from the somewhat distasteful direct-to-video comedy "Buying the Cow," I did find an equally ridiculous scene from "Blade: Trinity":
"Never Back Down"
This movie was made for the violent and homoerotic display of abs. As far as I can discern, that's really the only purpose. Then again, I don't entirely understand UFC either, so I could be missing something. Cam Gigandet and Sean Faris are the antagonists in this film that turns out to be an odd combination of "Fight Club" and "Step Up 2." Djimon Hounsou, underwear model and Academy Award Nominee classes up the joint as the trainer, though not in this particular clip. Here's the first confrontation between Gigandet and Faris, at a strangely violent pool party:
Shahrukh Khan in "Om Shanti Om"
Shahrukh Khan has been bulking up in the past decade, and it appears he was so proud of his new muscled torso he needed to build a whole film around it. I kid: "Om Shanti Om" is actually a very good movie and homage to Bollywood cinema as a whole. However, one might not get that from the following clip, which is perhaps the most blatant glorification of a single man's abs on this list.
Jean-Claude Van Damme and '80s Action
Finally, the birth of abs. Absurdly built macho men crashed into American cinema in the 1980s, or at least that's when they became a somewhat unstoppable force. Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Lundgren and others ripped open their shirts and decimated large numbers of unnamed extras, usually with some sort of Cold War propaganda motivation. My favorite has always been Van Damme, however. The Muscles from Brussels just seems to have a better sense of humor than the rest, which we got to see more clearly in 2008's "JCVD." Here's the final fight from "Kickboxer," but you should also check out the hilarious dancing scene.