Action heroes aren’t always the most relatable creatures. For the most part—at least where Hollywood is concerned—action heroes often take the form of superheroes. They come from alien planets, have superhuman abilities that differentiate them, and are often charged with larger-than-life missions like saving humanity.
In reality, a hero can take just about any form—even as an anti-hero like Walter White. For action heroes, so long as there’s danger, heart-pumping action scenes, and a high-stakes journey, then just about anyone can fit into the role. The more unlikely the character, the more memorable. And despite the fact that humans have been immortalizing real-life people into action-hero myths since our earliest days, we’re still not out of ideas.
Keep reading for some of the most interesting action heroes from the last century, along with what makes them so popular for audiences.
Indiana Jones: A Scholarly Mess
James Bond is often held up as the paragon of modern action heroes. But George Lucas also managed to create a myth through his Indiana Jones character. Equal parts archaeological whizz, smart-mouthed roughneck, and unwitting hero, Indiana Jones has become one of the most prolific hero types.
In fact, he helped inspire a generation of new characters. Lara Croft and Nathan Drake, of Tomb Raider and Uncharted fame, often take the cake. However, there are plenty of other examples. In the world of online slots, players can step into the world of Rich Wilde as he searches for the Book of Dead. The Indy-inspired hero is recognizable to players who enjoy Lucas’s films, making it a popular choice.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: A New Type of Warrior
Vampires have long been part of the cultural zeitgeist—along with the women they seduce. But creators took a totally new direction in the 1990s when they created the character of Buffy Summers. Though she’s focused on her mundane life, she discovers that she’s a ‘Slayer’ who is destined to destroy vampires and other denizens of the Dark.
So, what made this show such a hit and Buffy such a memorable action hero? Three decades after airing, the show remains a cult hit because it combined elements that weren’t often paired together in action projects, including coming-of-age sass, a rag-tag group of vampire-fighting friends, and a fresh new take on supernatural dangers.
Frodo: A Hero We Can Relate To
Indiana Jones brought a scholarly take to action, while Buffy turned the vampire trope on its head. When it comes to Frodo, the hobbit who destroyed the Ring, we have an even more unlikely action hero. In fact, that’s what makes Frodo such an incredibly meaningful action hero: he never wanted to be one.
And at almost every turn, Frodo was woefully unprepared for the challenges ahead of him. Though surrounded by a powerful cast of heroes, it’s Frodo who must overcome some of the most dangerous challenges. In the true form of a hero’s tale, these challenges aren’t always physical but also emotional and psychological. Without a road map to guide him, Frodo leans on his friends for support at every turn—something that most people can relate to.
Deadpool: A Superhero With Sass (& Complexity)
Deadpool is known for being charismatic and outspoken—but that’s not why this Marvel superhero is so memorable. After a stint with an illness, Deadpool gains immortality and a host of supernatural abilities. As such, he’s one of the few ‘truly’ immortal superheroes in any heroic pantheon.
What makes Deadpool such a quality action hero is that his motivation is always driving him toward death. Deadpool, unlike almost any other character ever written, wants to die in order to be reunited with his beloved. This isn’t in the cards, which is what gives Deadpool his signature style of being brazen and undercalculated. And it eventually leads to one of the coolest romantic subplots in comic history: Deadpool developing a relationship with the personification of death, named Death.