20. SYDNEY BRISTOW
WHY HER: Jennifer Garner’s hotsy, butt-kicking double/triple/multiple agent on Alias helped launch show creator J.J. Abrams into the upper tier of thriller auteurism.
BEST ACCESSORY: Any spandex clothing item, preferably red.
19. ATTICUS FINCH
WHY HIM: In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and in the movie with Gregory Peck, Atticus transforms quiet decency, legal acumen, and great parenting into the most heroic qualities a man can have.
COPYCAT DESCENDANT: A Time to Kill‘s Jake Tyler Brigance.
WHY HIM: The brooding Batman is the paradigm for gadgety, nonpowered superheroes. And Christian Bale’s Dark Knight acts as the ultimate war-on-terror hero — and cautionary tale.
BEST ACCESSORY: Batarangs. Because they’re called Batarangs.
17. NANCY DREW
WHY HER: The first female hero embraced by most little girls, Drew lived in an endless summer of adventures and unlimited potential.
BEST ACCESSORY: Flashlight.
COPYCAT DESCENDANTS: Scooby-Doo‘s Velma, Veronica Mars.
16. JACK BAUER
TYPICAL DAY ON THE JOB: Defusing scary bombs; interviewing terrorist suspects ”the hard way”
WEAPON OF CHOICE: Bare hands (for his patented Jack Bauer sleeper hold)
CATCHPHRASE: ”Dammit! We’re running out of time!”
PERSONAL BAGGAGE: Wife killed; estranged from daughter
15. DIRTY HARRY
TYPICAL DAY ON THE JOB: Beating up scum on the streets of San Francisco; denying Miranda rights
WEAPON OF CHOICE: .44 Magnum, ”the most powerful handgun in the world”
CATCHPHRASE: ”Go ahead, make my day.”
PERSONAL BAGGAGE: Wife killed; estranged from mankind
14. WILL KANE
WHY HIM: In High Noon, Gary Cooper’s retiring lawman faces down a killer and his goons despite being deserted by the rest of the town.
MOST HEROIC MOVE: When Kane’s last ally gets cold feet, he tells him to go home to his family, and then refuses the help of a teenager.
13. FOXY BROWN
WHY HER: In the ’70s, it was nothing short of revolutionary for a supersexy female vigilante (Pam Grier) to demand payback from every scumbag who crosses her path.
MOST HEROIC QUOTE: ”You just take care of the justice, and I’ll handle the revenge myself.”
COPYCAT DESCENDANT: Rapper Foxy Brown.
12. CAPTAIN JAMES T. KIRK
WHY HIM: Whether tangling with Romulans, Klingons, or the wrath of Khan, Star Trek‘s Kirk (William Shatner) is never anything less than a cool cat.
MOST HEROIC MOVE: Repeatedly saving the Federation’s bacon; acing the Kobayashi Maru scenario.
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: Freaky alien babes.
11. MAD MAX
WHY HIM: In a postapocalyptic world where everyone is in a death struggle for fuel (hmm, sound familiar?), you need a badass who cracks heads…you know, for good.
BEST ACCESSORY: A souped-up muscle car.
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: Poor fuel efficiency.
COPYCAT DESCENDANTS: Kevin Costner in Waterworld, Kevin Costner in The Postman.
WHY HIM: Sure, Peter Parker (played on film by Tobey Maguire) has powers beyond those of mortal men…but he’s just a kid, trying to land a job, care for his aunt, and make nice with his dream girl. And he still finds time for feats of bravery.
MOST HEROIC MOVE: Risking life and limb to stop a runaway el train in Spider-Man 2.
LEAST HEROIC MOVE: That alien-goop-prompted emo strut he whips out in Spider-Man 3.
9. ROBIN HOOD
WHY HIM: As the champion of Sherwood Forest, Errol Flynn best embodies the swashbuckling rogue in 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood.
MOST HEROIC QUOTE: ”Men, if you’re willing to fight for our people, I want you!”
BEST ACCESSORY: His posse of merry men.
WORST ACCESSORY: His green tights.
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: Fair maidens.
8. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
WHY HER: No one kicks undead ass with more stylin’ sass than the SoCal blonde, immortalized by Sarah Michelle Gellar in Joss Whedon’s TV series. To quote her tombstone, ”She saved the world — a lot.”
MOST HEROIC MOVE: To protect her sister — and humanity — she jumps to her (temporary) death in a snarling portal of evil.
7. HAN SOLO
WHY HIM: Star Wars‘ cocksure, self-centered space smuggler (MVP good guy Harrison Ford) becomes a cocksure, slightly less self-centered hero of the Rebel Alliance.
MOST HEROIC QUOTE: ”Not a bad bit of rescuing, huh? You know, sometimes I amaze even myself.”
BEST ACCESSORY: Wookiee sidekick.
6. JOHN McCLANE
WHY HIM: Through four Die Hard movies, Bruce Willis’ wisecracking, terrorist-foiling New York cop established himself as the anti-Bond, making the world safe for flawed blue-collar superheroes in torn T-shirts and jeans.
MOST HEROIC QUOTE: ”Yippee-ki-yay, motherf—er.”
COPYCAT DESCENDANTS: Keanu Reeves in Speed (Die Hard on a bus!), Wesley Snipes in Passenger 57 (Die Hard on a plane!), Jean-Claude Van Damme in Sudden Death (Die Hard at a hockey game!). And so on.
5. ELLEN RIPLEY
WHY HER: As inhabited by Sigourney Weaver, the Alien tetralogy’s Ripley is one of the first female movie characters who isn’t defined by the men around her, or by her relationship to them.
MOST HEROIC QUOTE: ”Get away from her, you bitch!”
BEST ACCESSORY: The exoskeletonish power loader she uses to pummel the Alien Queen into the air lock in Aliens.
4. HARRY POTTER
WHY HIM: Orphaned, cast out, and in the throes of adolescent hormonal revolt, J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard (played by Daniel Radcliffe on screen) is the embodiment of the corny bumper sticker: Why be normal?
MOST HEROIC MOVE: Obliterating Voldemort by deploying his secret weapons: love, loyalty, and the good ol’ Expelliarmus.
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: Misses his mommy and daddy.
WHY HIM: He’s no less than the superhero archetype, but it wasn’t until Christopher Reeve donned his tights that we realized the Man of Steel also had a soul.
MOST HEROIC MOVE: When he saves California from falling into the sea. No, it’s when he gives his life to stop Doomsday from destroying Metropolis. No, wait, it’s being Superman.
LEAST HEROIC MOVE: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
2. INDIANA JONES
WHY HIM: Thanks to Steven Spielberg’s rollicking direction and Harrison Ford’s rough charm, the brainy, brawling Indy is an old-fashioned champion of good who takes us on breathless, timeless thrill rides across the globe.
BEST ACCESSORY: Bullwhip, coiled at the hip.
COPYCAT DESCENDANTS: Romancing the Stone‘s Jack T. Colton, The Librarian‘s Flynn Carsen, Tomb Raider‘s Lara Croft.
1. JAMES BOND
WHY HIM: Without 007, the action-hero genre as we know it would not exist. When Sean Connery introduced the suave, unflappable Bond to audiences 47 years ago in Dr. No — last name first, naturally — he kicked off the longest-running, most copied action franchise in the history of film.
MOST HEROIC QUOTE: ”Do you mind if my friend sits this one out? She’s just dead.”
LEAST HEROIC QUOTE: ”That’s as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs.”
BEST ACCESSORY: The Aston Martin with the pop-off top.
WORST ACCESSORY: Goldfinger’s powder blue terry-cloth jumpsuit.