Hairy or bald: which makes for the tougher action star?

Are our action heroes harder when they’ve got a full mop of hair, or when they take on the world with a shiny top? We get to the bottom of the mystery...

We puzzle over some odd conundrums at Den Of Geek. As From Paris With Love, out today in the UK, sees John Travolta joining the rank and file of shaven-headed action stars, it got us thinking: just who are the hardest? Is it better to be bald or hairy when it comes to being an action beefcake? Let’s find out…


You’d never say that Bruce Willis was the most generously rewarded when it came to follicles on his head, but most of his action movies in the early part of his career at least has something to keep the rain off his dome. We got baldy Bruce in Die Hard 4 though, and for parts of Surrogates, where he also – to be fair – sported one of the five worst wigs in the history of modern cinema.

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Still, there’s little doubting that Bruce’s action glory days came when he had hair on his head. And yet, here’s the conundrum: while Bruce’s action films were better when he was hairy, he made for a tougher hero when his head was shaved/nature took its course. Thus, a reluctant point for baldness here, as lack of quantity wins out over quality.

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Travolta’s main hairy period of action mayhem came in the 1990s, when his well-populated top fought its way through the likes of Swordfish, Broken Arrow and Face/Off. The hair didn’t help his image particularly, though, and there’s something just a bit more menacing about him in From Paris With Love that makes us slightly edge bald Travolta for this one. Even if he does seem to be channelling Ming the Merciless a little…

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You’d be hard-pushed to call Alien 3 an action movie, but as a contrast to the spectacular Aliens, it works as a point of comparison. It’s a tough call this one, though. Weaver was a rounded kick-ass action star in Aliens, no questions asked. But when she went bald, she also went just a little bit scary. Bluntly, we wouldn’t fuck with her either way. We’ll call this one a tie, with a point to each.

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Arnie has, to our knowledge, only gone bald in one film. That film was Batman & Robin. It’s not even worth continuing the debate on this one. Just look at the bloody photo.

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Surely this generation’s finest action beefcake, earning extra stripes for choosing a collection of batshit crazy movies to lend his talents to. We’d never tell him to his face, but his hairline was clearly thinning out even in his earlier films. Take at look at him in The Italian Job remake if you don’t believe us. But by the time we get to Crank 2 and the Transporter movies, any hint of growth on his head is pretty much long gone. And there’s little question just how much harder he looks as a result.

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Connery infamously wore a wig when he decided to reprise the role of James Bond in the unofficial 007 movie Never Say Never Again. And you can understand why. While you wouldn’t quarrel with his character in The Untouchables in a hurry, his toughest big screen action moments were all contained to the days when he was wearing Mr Bond’s tux and carried fur on his bonce. Even Captain Rameus had a strangely sprightly collection of hair. And he worked his way through The Rock without getting a dome chill too…

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It’s a terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible movie, but there’s little doubting that Demi Moore looked a more forceful action star when she shaved her head for the terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible G.I. Jane. Contrast that with her locks for the Charlie’s Angels sequel, and we know which version of Demi we’d be hiding from. Er, both, as it happens, but the point goes to the baldies…

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There is nothing frightening at all about Matthew McConaughey as a hairy lead in films such as A Time To Kill and Sahara. There’s not that much frightening about him either with the shaved head version that permeated Reign Of Fire. But at least the latter looks like he’d be mildly up for a fight. Can you say that in any other film he’s made?

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As Amidala in the Star Wars prequels, the toughest battle you figured that Natalie Portman could tackle was with the fairly ropey script and the stupid lines that she had to say. But she dropped her locks for the divisive V For Vendetta, and all of a sudden looked like she could firmly hold her own in a scrap. Ditch the hair, kick some ass…

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Robert De Niro has played some mighty intense and really quite intimidating gangsters in his time, and they’ve all had one thing in common: they’ve had hair on their head. Now, don’t get us wrong, as we’ve no desire to be stuck in a room with any of his nastier characters in a hurry, but the one that made De Niro utterly look like a man not to be messed with? That’d be Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. But! What’s this! On a point of order, Bickle’s head is not completely clear of fur. So no points either way. Sorry, Travis.

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Also Not allowed:

Steven Seagal, who appears hairy in every film in spite of alleged baldness underneath (there are several other action stars who allegedly fall into this camp).

Tom Cruise, who shaved his head a bit for Minority Report, but still ensured there was enough on top for a rainy day

Chuck Norris, who we didn’t even think of including, but just wanted to say he has ace facial hair.

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The conclusion:

It’s obvious. Take off the hair, and you simply look like the kind of person who could do more damage. It really is that simple (although the films don’t necessarily get any better, we’ve noticed).

Don’t forget to let us know of any we’ve missed from our incredibly scientific experiment. And feel free to add speculation as to what the newly-bald Travolta will do with his lack of hair next. Hairspray 2 perhaps? Geddit? We’ll get our coat…

From Paris With Love is out today, if you fancy peeping at John The Merciless’ polished head…