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A definitive ranking of the best war movie beards
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
By popular demand, Viper is also receiving an honorable mention, because what an icon.
Former Defense Secretary James Mattis, who led a Marine task force to Afghanistan shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, said the Washington Post's recent reporting about the U.S. government's pattern of lies about the war over the last two decades is not "revelatory."
Mattis, who was interviewed by the Washington Post's David Ignatius on Friday, also said he does not believe the U.S. government made any efforts to hide the true situation in Afghanistan and he argued the war has not been in vain.
Here are 10 key quotes from Mattis regarding the Washington Post's reporting in the 'Afghanistan Papers.'
The Navy relieved a decorated explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) officer on Thursday due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command, the Navy announced on Friday.
The Taliban may not have breached the walls of Bagram, but they damaged the hell out of its main passenger terminal
Blasts from Taliban car bombs outside of Bagram Airfield on Wednesday caused extensive damage to the base's passenger terminal, new pictures released by the 45th Expeditionary Wing show.
The pictures, which are part of a photo essay called "Bagram stands fast," were posted on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service's website on Thursday.
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.
Shortly after seven sailors died aboard USS Fitzgerald when she collided with a merchant ship off Japan in 2017, I wrote that the Fitzgerald's watch team could have been mine. My ship had once had a close call with me on watch, and I had attempted to explain how such a thing could happen. "Operating ships at sea is hard, and dangerous. Stand enough watches, and you'll have close calls," I wrote at the time. "When the Fitzgerald's investigation comes out, I, for one, will likely be forgiving."
So, am I forgiving? Yes — for some.
Editor's note: a version of this story first appeared in 2015.
Most people haven't heard of an elderly Belgian-Congolese nurse named Augusta Chiwy. But students of history know that adversity and dread can turn on a dime into freedom and change, and it's often the most humble and little-known individuals who are the drivers of it.
During the very darkest days of the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, Chiwy was such a catalyst, and hundreds of Americans lived because of her. She died quietly on Aug. 23, 2015, at the age of 94 at her home in Brussels, Belgium, and had it not been for the efforts of my friend — British military historian Martin King — the world may never have heard her astonishing story.