Top Seven Bad-ass Sergeants

November 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

Today marks the 90th anniversary of Armistice Day.

Earlier this morning we saw a varicose-veined flood of heroic war veterans on our televisions at the memorial service held at the Cenotaph in White hall all adorned with poppies.  In the spirit of all things war, OntheBox’s Alejandro Ahmadi-Gestoso casts our minds back to an era of some of the most memorably bad-ass sergeants from the movies.

The blood-red poppy has long been used as a symbol of our Remembrance of the sacrifices made in past wars; however, in the days of the Greeks and Romans, the bright scarlet colour also signified the promise of resurrection after death. It’s in this spirit that I decided to take a look into the dusty shrapnel-laden archive of war movies and resurrect the top seven kick-ass sergeants* of all time…

7. Sergeant Bilko from the 1996 comedy movie of the same name, played by Steve Martin

Not what you were expecting, huh? Not to belittle the importance of Remembrance Day, but Sergeant Bilko, an adaptation of the 1950’s The Phil Silvers Show, views war from a refreshingly comic angle in this quintessentially ‘Steve Martin’ outing.

Watching the Sergeant leap from scheme to scheme, evading Inspector Major Thorn with about as much grace as the Pink Panther, certainly earns him a place on this list.

Sergeant Bilko

6. Captain Benjamin L. Willard from 1979 epic Apocalypse Now, played by Martin Sheen

One man. One mission. One kill. Captain Benjamin is sent on a mission to terminate “with extreme prejudice? renegade officer Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando).. As Willard braves the dark recesses of both Cambodia and the human heart, in order to reach his target, we cannot help but get drawn into his plight. Bad-assery doesn’t get more primal than this

After a hefty battle with Kurtz, a despondent Willard leaves. Cheer up mate, it could’ve been worse. The natives might have eaten you.

5. Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil from the 1997 film G.I. Jane, played by Demi Moore

For all those feminists with their fingers hovering mercilessly over the keyboards preparing some arbitrary complaint, this one’s for you.

Though the movie is possibly more hideous than any armed conflict, with the protagonist jumping from one man-trial to another, ultimately gaining the respect of all those around her (basically, Flashdance with guns), you can’t help but admire Demi Moore’s character.

For those of you who thought bad-assery didn’t come with breasts, think again.

Poor old Demi Moore is forced to shave her head. For the record, she still looks hot.

4. Sergeant Mac Eliot from the 1987 sci-fi classic Predator, played by Bill Duke

Sandwiched between the hulking colossi of Arnold Swarzenegger, Jessie Ventura and Carl Weathers, it’s easy to overlook Sgt Mac Eliot. Yet, not only does his friendship with Blain Cooper (played by Jesse Ventura) provide a touching – in a sort of man-grunting, tobacco-chewing, gun-wielding way – counterpoint to the explosions and Arnie’s camera-filling pectorals, he also gives us one of the films most memorable scenes. You know the one. The magnificent sight of Sgt Eliot picking up the modified minigun – “Ol’ Painless? – belonging to his fallen comrade Blain and cutting down half the jungle with it whilst making a sound that can only be described as somewhere between war cry and hippo mating call. Oh, and, later on, he also manages to single-handedly mutilate a wild pig too. What a guy.

3. Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from the 1987 war film Full Metal Jacket played by R. Lee Ermey

With more expletives than a Jerry Springer Show, Sgt Hartman swears his way into third spot. Whilst not bad-ass in the traditional barrage-of-bullets way, he is a grand master of psychological warfare, reflected by his constant berating of Private Leonard Lawrence (Vincent D’Onofrio) – nicknamed “Gomer  Pyle?. Watching him is by turns amusing and disturbing, a terrifying cross-pollination between strict dad and stricter football coach. Even when he’s shot dead by Pyle half way through, the man’s in mid-rant. At the very least, he’s consistent.

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman meets the “Maggots.?

2. Sergeant Al Apone from the 1987 sci-fi film Aliens, played by Al Matthews

Once every so often, possibly every generation or blue moon, a film of such splendour and magnificence appears that is so good you could be time-locked Bill Murray style and forced to watch it endlessly; yet, you’d never get bored of it. Not even once. So is the case, at least on my part, with James Cameron’s Aliens, and whilst Officer Ellen Ripley (practically synonymous with Sigourney Weaver) takes most of the acid-drenched limelight, this is the place where Sgt Apone receives a belated thank you for enriching the hallowed category of bad-ass.

In charge of an elite squad of colonial marines, the cigar-smoking Sergeant effortlessly peddles between witty comedian and all-business soldier, bringing his unit of conscripted “grunts? to plasma bullet dispensing life in the process.

His one-liners also deserve praise. A particular favourite of mine, which I’ve subsequently used and modified, is when asked what the current mission is, Apone responds: “Rescue mission. There’s some juicy colonists’ daughters we gotta rescue from virginity.? Genius.

Also, major kudos for making the word “sweetheart? sound manly again. Girlfriends, wives and mistresses across the world, rejoice.

1. Sergeant Forest Gump from the 1994 film Forest Gump, played by Tom Hanks

That’s right. You can stop rubbing your eyes or cleaning your glasses. The number one spot has, indeed, gone to Forest Gump.

Whilst serving in Vietnam, Forest is promoted to Sergeant after saving his entire platoon during a surprise attack. The scene of him running back and forth through the undergrowth with his comrades hung over his shoulders like a sack of grain are both heroic and comic, and a totally bad-ass image I’ve never forgotten.

Now, admittedly, while he’s not the brightest bullet to grace a gun chamber, Forest Gump has something none of the other sergeants on this list have: heart. I know, I know. I can already see your faces concertinaing in confusion; hear you tap away hate mail on your keyboards to the tune of what the f*ck does heart have to do with anything?

I’ll explain.

In an age obsessed with placing the graphic horrors of war under the microscope, Forest Gump celebrates life overcoming the odds. What Forest Gump shows, in his own savantic way, is the heart and courage of soldiers in conflict; of the individual making a difference to the world.

And, if you’re still not convinced, he did manage to save the day and get the girl with an IQ of about 5.

We can all take heart from that.

By Alejandro Ahmadi-Gestoso

*Disclaimer: to all those web forum obsessed, hate-mail sending junkies, I do realise that some of the top eight featured are not sergeants, this is simply a term I’m assigning to characters who ejaculate bad-assery. For those of you uncomfortable with this, I’m afraid you’re just going to have to make like the time you accidentally heard your parents have sex and deal with it.

Rick Sarvas says:

Gump was a sergeant? I totally missed bit of info that in the movie. I thought he was a private in the “I gotta find Bubba!” scene where he saves everyone in the platoon except Bubba (though he does finds him too late to save him). I suspect I’ll have to watch that again. Still a good movie IMHO.

herpy says:

I’m sorry sir, I don’t see any Sgt. Thomas Highway from Heartbreak Ridge.

I grew a freaking beard watching that badass clip.