A definitive ranking of the best war movie beards

popular
Photos: IMDB

The only thing Hollywood might love more than a good-looking man named Chris — heavy emphasis on might — is a war film. And in recent years, a primary constant in contemporary war films has been facial hair.


The appearance of facial hair in war movies has shifted with the standards; when beards were allowed in the military, they were shown in movies portraying the time, which explains why you don't see a whole lot more than stubble in WWII movies.

Now, facial hair is mostly banned throughout much of the armed services (though some service members have received religious exemptions). But in the post-9/11 era, movies highlighting special operators have become the norm, hence making operator beards the norm. Special operators have had more relaxed standards as they deploy to areas of the world where a man's facial hair can hold a different kind of significance.

The good, the bad, and the ugly have all made an appearance on the silver screen. To help you keep it all straight, here is a definitive, completely unscientific yet totally correct ranking of the best war movie beards.

Any complaints will be forwarded straight to the trash. This ranking is definitive, as the title suggests.

8. Taylor Kitsch — Lone Survivor

Taylor Kitsch as TK, Lone Survivor (2013).

IMDB

If I saw this beard on the street, I'd think "eh."

This beard is acceptable. I'm not mad at it — it gets the job done — but compared to its competitors it's not show-stopping. I won't pretend to be unbiased here as I will always see Kitsch as Friday Night Lights' lovable, well-meaning screw-up Tim Riggins, so take that as you will. But this beard is worth a quick highlight.

7. Chris Pratt — Zero Dark Thirty

Chris Pratt as TK, Zero Dark Thirty (2012).

IMDB

Hollywood Nirvana — a war film and a Chris.

Pratt's beard ain't pretty, but then again it's not meant to be. It works with the rest of his aesthetic seamlessly, and for that reason it ranks in at #7.

6. Joel Edgerton — Zero Dark Thirty

Joel Edgerton as Patrick, Zero Dark Thirty (2012).

IMDB

Like John Krasinski a couple spots down, Edgerton's beard just physically looks great. It's that simple. This is the Kraft mac & cheese of operator beards — a classic.

5. Bradley Cooper — American Sniper

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, in American Sniper (2014).

IMDB

What I like about Cooper's beard is its haphazardness. It's not quite as full as Krasinski's and Edgerton's, but it very effectively says "Do not, under any circumstances, fuck with me." He doesn't have time to groom — he's busy, get off his back.

4. John Krasinski — 13 Hours

John Krasinski as Jack Silva, in 13 Hours (2016).

IMDB

It pained me not to rank my man John Krasinski as number one, as I believe he is the best we as a country have to offer. That aside, this is a solid, full beard — not King Leonidas-status, but more than respectable.

John, if you're reading this, forgive me.

3. Donald Sutherland — Kelly's Heroes

Donald Sutherland as Sgt. Oddball in Kelly's Heroes (1970).

IMDB

Look at this guy. That beard is coming in at #3 and I won't hear a word about it.

2. Gerard Butler — 300

Gerard Butler in 300 (2006).

IMDB

Were it not for the aforementioned lads, Gerard Butler as King Leonidas would have taken the cake.

Leonidas and this beard are one — try for a moment to imagine the iconic "this is Sparta" scene without that beard. Exactly, you can't, because kicking a Persian messenger who has really pissed you the fuck off down a well can't be done with some half-assed attempt at facial hair.

1. Martin Sheen, Patrick Gorman, Tom Berenger — Gettysburg

Martin Sheen as Gen. Robert E. Lee (top left), Patrick Gorman as Maj. Gen. John Bell Hood (bottom left), Tom Berenger as Lt. Gen. James Longstreet (right); Gettysburg (1993).

IMDB

Kneel, mere mortals, before the ultimate war-film beards.

Others may try to compete, but they will fail miserably when confronted by Martin Sheen (top left), Tom Berenger (right), and Patrick Gorman (bottom left). I could have ranked them all individually, but it seemed more than appropriate to tie them all for first place.

Honorable Mention: Jeff Daniels — Gettysburg

Jeff Daniels as Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Gettysburg (1993).

IMDB

I mean, give me a break. There's no way this unbelievable mustache wasn't getting mentioned.

Honorable Mention: Tom Skerritt — Top Gun

Tom Skerritt as Viper, Top Gun (1986).

IMDB

By popular demand, Viper is also receiving an honorable mention, because what an icon.


My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead

"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."

Opinion

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.

They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.

As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.

But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.

Read More Show Less

Conflict photographer Lynsey Addario's seen a hell of a lot of combat over the past twenty years. She patrolled Afghanistan's Helmand Province with the Marines, accompanied the Army on night raids in Baghdad, took artillery fire with rebel fighters in Libya and has taken photos in countless other wars and humanitarian disasters around the world.

Along the way, Addario captured images of plenty of women serving with pride in uniform, not only in the U.S. armed forces, but also on the battlefields of Syria, Colombia, South Sudan and Israel. Her photographs are the subject of a new article in the November 2019 special issue of National Geographic, "Women: A Century of Change," the magazine's first-ever edition written and photographed exclusively by women.

The photos showcase the wide range of goals and ideals for which these women took up arms. Addario's work includes captivating vignettes of a seasoned guerrilla fighter in the jungles of Colombia; a team of Israeli military police patrolling the streets of Jerusalem; and a unit of Kurdish women guarding ISIS refugees in Syria. Some fight to prove themselves, others seek to ignite social change in their home country, and others do it to liberate other women from the grip of ISIS.

Addario visited several active war zones for the piece, but she found herself shaken by something much closer to home: the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.

Addario discussed her visit to boot camp and her other travels in an interview with Task & Purpose, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Read More Show Less

An Army staff sergeant who "represents the very best of the 101st Airborne Division" has finally received a Silver Star for his heroic actions during the Battle of the Bulge after a 75-year delay.

On Sunday, Staff Sgt. Edmund "Eddie" Sternot was posthumously awarded with a Silver Star for his heroics while leading a machine gun team in the Ardennes Forest. The award, along with Sternot's Bronze Star and Purple Heart, was presented to his only living relative, Sternot's first cousin, 80-year-old Delores Sternot.

Read More Show Less

U.S. special operations forces are currently field testing a lightweight combat armor designed to cover more of an operator's body than previous protective gear, an official told Task & Purpose.

The armor, called the Lightweight Polyethylene (PE) Armor for Extremity Protection, is one of a handful of subsystems to come out of U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) effort that media outlets dubbed the "Iron Man suit," Navy Lieutenant Cmdr. Tim Hawkins, a SOCOM spokesman, told Task & Purpose on Wednesday.

Read More Show Less