Top Ten: Best Abs on Film

by Daniel Walber
June 15, 2011 2:22 AM
21 Comments
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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.



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21 Comments

  • Brad Pitt Jacket | April 30, 2012 10:07 AMReply

    Such a lovely post to share.


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  • fight club leather jacket | April 21, 2012 5:01 AMReply

    Brad Pitt is the real fighter.


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  • shawn taylor | August 15, 2011 5:12 AMReply

    No Wesley Snipes in Blade?
    No Bruce Lee?
    Wow.

  • maudie | July 29, 2011 5:09 AMReply

    Can't believe you didn't include Wolverine.

  • Ian Grey | July 16, 2011 5:19 AMReply

    Hello? Alexander SkarsgÄrd? True Blood?

    Seriously, they deserve their own screen credit.

  • Moonwillow | July 14, 2011 11:56 AMReply

    Edward Norton in American History X....orgasmic!!!!!

  • David | July 14, 2011 6:57 AMReply

    How do you not include a single black man?!?!?!?!???

  • Kate | June 27, 2011 8:25 AMReply

    Gosh I freakin' love that Marlon Brando scene in Streetcar.

  • hac | June 25, 2011 9:36 AMReply

    Hohoho, congratulations on your excellent choice in including Rain in the list. And I am sure one day the American audience will appreciate much more about this talented young man and not just his mind boggling physique! Well done!

  • Ashley | June 25, 2011 2:09 AMReply

    i can think of so many abs that could make the list. like Matt Lauer on vacation or Christian Bale as Batman. Edward Norton from American History X. Jake Gyllenhal in like all of his movies practically. and why is this based only on means abs. what about certain women like Jessica Biel from Blade Trinity ( she may not have shown her abs but her arm muscles were crazy!!) or Gwen Stefani? men aren't the only ones with decent looking abs even if they have those nice 6 and 8 packs.

  • beyondasiaphilia | June 23, 2011 12:24 PMReply

    Thanks so much for including Shah Rukh Khan in Om Shanti Om. Truly one of the most amazing washboard stomachs on film.

  • Rob | June 23, 2011 1:17 AMReply

    That's the final fight scene from Bloodsport, not Kickboxer.

  • pbev7 | June 22, 2011 8:08 AMReply

    My abs are pretty amazing. Just saying.

  • rudy | June 22, 2011 7:23 AMReply

    What about Bruce Lee?

  • M | June 22, 2011 5:52 AMReply

    excuse me Dan, you left off my suggestion of Clark Gable in It Happened One Night. Humph.

  • Nadell | June 17, 2011 8:27 AMReply

    Will Smith's work-out scene from "I Am Legend" needs to be included in this thread.

  • Ty | June 16, 2011 6:58 AMReply

    I agree with Caro !!! Where's Patrick Bateman's abs from American Psycho!! The opening scene, and some subsequents, is literally dedicated to his body!!

    Nonetheless, an interesting list, and I'm glad you mixed it up a little.

  • caro | June 16, 2011 4:54 AMReply

    where is Patrick Bateman's abs(in aMERICAN PSYCHO)?

  • fg | June 16, 2011 3:13 AMReply

    YO DUDE HOW COULD YOU NOT HAVE BRUCE LEE?!!! NOT ONLY IS HE A BADASS HE HAD SOME OF THE BEST ABS EVER ON FILM!!!

  • frika k | June 16, 2011 1:47 AMReply

    that twilight scene was ridiculous. i feel like i need to kill the foley artist.

  • gardnlady1 | June 15, 2011 6:19 AMReply

    Hey! Do not diss the 300 dudes abs! LOL. They did do some makeup for making them smoother, but these guys, including the director, all went through a tough course of fitness put on by Mark Twight (look him up). They had to shave all body hair as well....eeekkk...who did the guys get to help them with that!

    Just as the kid in Green Lantern did, they worked to get those abs, and as the same actor has said, as soon as it is all over, he will not be maintaining them!
    There are pics of GB standing and talking to the director, and to others with those muslces and abs, off screen, and there is not a bit of computer magic present! They worked hard for those temporary abs, give them a break! Of course, as soon as it was over, he stopped as that is not the look he wants to go for. He is very thin right now, from playing a soccer player for a new film.

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