DET. VIC MACKEY (MICHAEL CHIKLIS)
Most Badass Moment: After seven seasons of skulduggery, we still remember the moment in the series premiere when crooked cop Mackey shot one of his own men to avoid an internal-affairs investigation.
OMAR LITTLE (MICHAEL K. WILLIAMS)
Most Badass Moment: Dressed lazily in silk pajamas, Omar saunters casually over to the market to pick up some Honey Nut Cheerios. He’s not even armed, but his mere presence is enough to make everyone flee the streets to get out of his way.
ALONZO HARRIS (DENZEL WASHINGTON)
Most Badass Moment: All together now: ”King Kong! Ain’t got s—! On me!” Those lines (and the truth behind them) won Washington the Academy Award.
DANIEL PLAINVIEW (DANIEL DAY-LEWIS)
Most Badass Moment: The oilman’s terrifying, majestic, utterly bizarre description of drainage: “I drink your milk shake!” Day-Lewis somehow makes it sound apocalyptic.
TYLER DURDEN (BRAD PITT)
Most Badass Moment: Durden beats up a lot of people and makes a lot of things explode, but the moment that sealed his pop culture immortality is when he gets beaten up by Lou the bar owner in a curiously successful attempt to keep Fight Club‘s basement headquarters. It’s like Cool Hand Luke, except weird and muddy.
MASTER CHIEF (VOICED BY STEVE DOWNES)
Most Badass Moment: At the start of Halo 2, Master Chief jumps out of an airlock into open space miles above Earth’s atmosphere and manually guides a massive bomb through a spaceship battle. He sets it to go off inside of the fusion core of an enemy carrier. He propels himself away as the ship explodes behind him, which is kind of like when an action hero walks away from an explosion, except in space.
TONY SOPRANO (JAMES GANDOLFINI)
Most Badass Moment: Lost in a depressive cloud of lithium pills and dread, Tony almost doesn’t see the man with a gun. Almost. Reacting with a combination of quick thinking and desperation, Tony manages to get into his car. In the ensuing scuffle, one assassin ends up dead. It’s a typically realistic Sopranos back-to-the-wall action sequence.
DEXTER MORGAN (MICHAEL C. HALL)
Most Badass Moment: The bloody end of the Miguel Prado arc on Dexter was a turning point for the show, and a moment when our beloved Dex tried to set himself aside from the evil Prado represented.
JOHN LOCKE (TERRY O’QUINN)
Most Badass Moment: Upset that the captive Miles has been blabbing secrets to other castaways, Locke puts him in his place by putting a grenade in Miles’ mouth and strongly urging him to bite down as hard as he can for as long as he can. Dear Locke: We miss you, you crazy wonderful man.
DON DRAPER (JON HAMM)
Most Badass Moment: Tough to choose, since Don Draper does a lot of badass things. (Like that time he seduced an airline stewardess while pretending to be an FBI agent. Or everything he says and does.) We’ll go with the moment in season 3 when Don flees to an empty bar and mixes up a perfect Old Fashioned in under a minute. Children: This is what men do.
NEO (KEANU REEVES)
Most Badass Moment: When Neo defeats his archnemesis (for the first time), he faces down his remaining enemies, and the very substance of the digital world around him — the air, the ground, the walls — appears to briefly inhale and exhale. He’s not just a superhero: Within the virtual dimension of the Matrix, he’s become something like a god.
CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW (JOHNNY DEPP)
Most Badass Moment: Depp’s slurry pirate is hilarious to watch, but he’s more than just a goofball. Just look to the moment late in Pirates 2 when, face-to-face with the monstrous Kraken, Jack Sparrow jauntily puts on his hat, pulls out his sword, and stabs madly into the beast’s ship-swallowing mouth.
TONY STARK (ROBERT DOWNEY JR.)
Most Badass Moment: He takes on armies and supervillains, but the best thing about Stark is his willful unpredictability. That’s why we still remember his hilarious climactic revelation: ”I am Iron Man.” S.H.I.E.L.D. cover stories be damned!
MAXIMUS DECIMUS MERIDIUS (RUSSELL CROWE)
Most Badass Moment: Maximus fights lions, chariots, and emperors, but the part we remember is the single most awesome action-movie line ever: ”Are you not entertained?!?!”
SYDNEY BRISTOW (JENNIFER GARNER)
Most Badass Moment: The episode Phase One aired after the Super Bowl, and creator J.J. Abrams prepped something special for America: a scene featuring superspy Sydney vamping for a baddie on an airplane (in two sets of lingerie.) It’s all just a ruse to download important information?but when things go sour, Syd blows a hole in the emergency exit and parachutes away.
LARA CROFT (ANGELINA JOLIE)
Most Badass Moment: At the end of the first Tomb Raider, our favorite female adventurer fought a giant legless mutant skeleton inside of a pyramid?and ended up sinking Atlantis for the second time. Angelina who?
SARAH CONNOR (LINDA HAMILTON)
Most Badass Moment: Question: What is the cinematic shorthand for establishing that your formerly shy character has become an action-heroine badass? Answer: one-handed chin-ups. In an insane asylum.
KARA ”STARBUCK” THRACE (KATEE SACKHOFF)
Most Badass Moment: Held captive in a bizarro domestic setting by the Cylon Leoben, Starbuck stays quiet as her abductor serves her dinner. Then she viciously stabs him several times with a fork — and then proceeds to eat dinner, bloody fork and all.
AMANDA WOODWARD (HEATHER LOCKLEAR)
Most Badass Moment: Facing down rival Alison, Amanda set the tone. ”Don’t bother quitting,” she told her. ”’Cause if you do, I’ll write out such a negative report on you with your personnel file and send it to every employment and temp agency in this state so that you wouldn’t be able to get a job bagging groceries in a local supermarket!” Witness the birth of the modern world’s bitch queen.
THE BRIDE (UMA THURMAN)
Most Badass Moment: In one of the most eye-popping action sequences ever, Thurman’s vengeful assassin fights the Crazy 88, a Tokyo gang of katana-wielding killers. The Bride kills some of them, but wounds them all, prompting this victory speech: ”Leave the limbs you’ve lost. They belong to me now.”
JACK BAUER (KIEFER SUTHERLAND)
Most Badass Moment: After being held captive by the Chinese government for almost two years, Jack is handed over to a vengeful terrorist. Tied up to a chair with a heart monitor (because they want to make the execution nice and slow), he manages to play dead. A terrorist lackey comes over to check on him. That’s when Jack bites into the guy’s neck. (Question to ponder: Was this the start of the vampire craze?)
JANE LYNCH AS GLEE‘S SUE SYLVESTER
DR. GREGORY HOUSE (HUGH LAURIE)
Most Badass Moment: The last five minutes of virtually every hour-long episode of House, when the cranky doc finally comes up with the solution to the seemingly insurmountable medical problem, usually after bullying patients and engaging in mental warfare with his employees.
BARNEY STINSON (NEIL PATRICK HARRIS)
Most Badass Moment: The revelation that this self-styled badassery guru owns a silk pajama suit (complete with a tie!)
MADEA SIMMONS (TYLER PERRY)
Most Badass Moment: In Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Madea demands that her granddaughter’s cheating husband give up half of everything he owns. The louse refuses. Madea responds by taking a chain saw to half of his plush couch.
Surprised not to see one of your all-time fave badasses on the list? State your case on EW’s PopWatch blog