10 Most Iconic Movie Weapons

January 14, 2014 3:29 pm

movie weaponsWe can all think of some brilliant scenes in our favourite movies that include a shoot out, a duel, a battle or a fight. And more often than not, weapons are involved. Sure, any old Michael Bay movie features an array of M16s, and you’ll probably find a Tommy Gun in a gangster film. But some movies feature weapons that grab our attention. Some films have stories revolving around a particularly epic sword, or a character may have a signature firearm. In a select group of films, the weapons can be defined as iconic.

There are a select group of items which become memorable iconic movie props. There are classic cars, like James Bond’s Aston Martin or Dick Van Dyke’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. There are great costumes, like Darth Vader’s mask or Indiana Jones’ fedora. And perhaps even famous shoes, like Dorothy’s red slippers .

However, one movie prop which stands out above the rest is the weapon. Weapons often represent the character who wields them, or perhaps become symbolic of the film they appear in. But undeniably, weapons are iconic elements of film. We can all picture Ripley and her flamethrower in Aliens, Captain Kirk and his phaser in Star Trek, or Batman and his Batarang. Even Anchorman’s Brick and his grenade.

There are a huge amount of weapons synonymous with cinema, but only a selection can be defined as iconic. So here, in by no means an exhaustive list, are the 10 Most Iconic Movie Weapons…

 

10. The Man With No Name’s Colt – A Fistful Of Dollars

The highly influential 1964 spaghetti western, A Fistful of Dollars, stars Clint Eastwood as a nameless anti-hero roaming the old West. Directed by Sergio Leone, the Italian made Western features one of the most iconic weapons in cinema, and the shoot-outs in the film paved the way for countless imitations.

The film sees Eastwood display his shooting skills from the outset, as he confronts the locals of the town with a brilliantly one-sided and brief gun-battle. Eastwood’s weapon in A Fistful of Dollars is a Colt Single Action Army revolver, featuring a silver rattlesnake on the grip. The revolver is an iconic prop of any Western, but few shoot it as well as the Man With No Name.

The best scene featuring the weapon is the climactic moment of the film, as Eastwood faces antagonist Ramon (played by Gian Maria Volonte) in a one-on-one duel. Ramon has a Winchester rifle, and earlier in the film questioned Eastwood why he used a gun that took so long to load. In the final scene, Ramon challenges Eastwood to load, draw and fire – thinking his rifle will be easier and quicker. The Man With No Name proves him spectacularly wrong, and after holstering his Colt, quite literally rides off into the sunset.

9. The Atomic Bomb – Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb

The 1964 black comedy Dr Strangelove is a highly influential film, written, directed and produced by iconic film-maker Stanley Kubrick. Starring Peter Sellers and George C Scott, the film follows a crazed, tense story of the build up to a nuclear conflict during the Cold War. The film sees a chaotic and hilarious attempt to try to stop a nuclear apocalypse, after a nuclear assault on Russia is launched by a renegade American officer.

The film is a brilliant comedy, and features a well-known scene at the climax of the story. Having launched a nuclear assault on Russia, a B-52 bomber of the U.S Air Force is on its way to bomb its designated target. The pilot of the bomber, Major T J ‘King’ Kong (played by Slim Pickens), is intent on delivering the B-52’s payload and flies at full speed to the target in Russia. However, the bomb-release mechanism fails and Major Kong climbs up on top of the atomic bomb to try to release it. In one of the most iconic scenes in cinematic history, the bomb releases from the B-52 with Major Kong riding it. The scene follows the bomb downwards, as the Stetson-wearing Major Kong straddles it, gleefully screaming.

 

8. The Proton Pack – Ghostbusters

The 1984 supernatural comedy film Ghostbusters stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson as a group of parapsychologists who start a business to catch ghosts in New York City. The film is known by all as a brilliant piece of 80s science fiction and comedy, and has a great theme tune. Let’s hum it in our heads right now. Who you gonna call?

Ghosbusters of course. Who else? And who else has such a unique and iconic weapon? The proton pack which the Ghostbusters use to disable paranormal beings is essentially a backpack with a gun attached, and the gun fires a stream of ghost-zapping light. Scientifically speaking, the proton pack is a portable particle accelerator that creates a charged particle beam. It is defined in Ghostbusters as a positron collider, and is not actually called a proton pack until Ghostbusters II, by which time the laser-beam backpack had become a firm favourite weapon of sci-fi geeks, 80s children and erm, the Ghostbusters.

 

7. 007’s Walther PPK – James Bond

James Bond relies on a weapon as a signature theme of the whole franchise. The very introduction to nearly each and every Bond film features Bond firing a weapon, viewed from inside a gun barrel which is then streaked in blood. Acting as a way of introducing the character of 007, the sequence has become the definitive symbol of James Bond.

But aside from the symbolism of a gun barrel, James Bond does feature some iconic weapons. We’ve already covered the Golden Gun, but there is a never-ending list of firearms, gadgets and other weapons which 007 uses throughout the series of films. Perhaps the most famous and iconic weapon of all is the Walther PPK.

The German pistol is used by Bond from Dr No onwards, and has killed many a bad-guy in its cinematic run. The Walther company essentially received free advertising through the James Bond franchise, as 007 has the snub-nosed pistol as his side-arm in every film. Tomorrow Never Dies saw a change of firearm, as Bond used a modern Walther P99 in place of the ageing PPK, but the most recent film Skyfall saw a return to the trusty little PPK brought up to date with a coded palmprint reader.

 

6. The Bride’s Katana – Kill Bill

Quentin Tarantino’s hugely popular film series Kill Bill features an iconic character in Uma Thurman’s Bride, and with her an iconic weapon. The 2003 film Kill Bill: Volume I, follows a non-linear story of a Bride out to seek revenge on the people who tried to kill her, namely a figure called Bill. As the story progresses, the Bride travels to Okinawa, Japan, in order to trace the finest swordsmith in the world, Hattori Hanzo. Hattori Hanzo (played by Sonny Chiba) makes a sword especially for the Bride, so she can kill Bill. Kill Bill, get it? Of course you did.

The sword which Hanzo constructs is a Katana, a type of weapon already seen on this list in Highlander. Hanzo explains that the Katana is the finest and sharpest he has made, and adds “If on your journey you encounter God, God will be cut.” The Katana is put to good use by the Bride, and the most notable fight scene occurs against the Crazy 88, in which the Bride single-handedly defeats 88 antagonists. The sleek blade matches the Bruce Lee-inspired yellow-jumpsuit-figure of the Bride, and has become an iconic image of Uma Thurman, and a symbol of Tarantino’s work.

5. Bruce Lee’s Nunchakus – Enter The Dragon

Hong Kong martial arts legend Bruce Lee features at the head of this list with an unusual and special weapon, the Nunchakus. Though I was tempted to put Bruce Lee’s bare hands as an iconic weapon, I thought it would be more appropriate to pay homage to a traditional Okinawan weapon which Lee effectively brought to a global audience.

The Nunchakus, or more commonly called Nunchuks, are a simple weapon made of two sticks connected at one end by a chain or rope. They are simple, but deadly. American-born film star Bruce Lee brought the Nunchakus to an international viewership in his films, including his most famous works, Fist of Fury, Way of The Dragon, Game of Death and Enter The Dragon. He captures on film the incredible skill and agility needed to wield Nunchakus, and his adversaries are also given a short lesson in the effectiveness of Lee’s Nunchuks.

The 1973 martial arts film Enter The Dragon, features one of the most iconic uses of Nunchakus in film. Set off the coast of Hong Kong, the film stars Bruce Lee as an undercover agent who infiltrates a secret society. At the climax of the film, Lee has gone into the hidden complex on the island and has faced down many antagonists with his bare hands and martial arts fighting. The scene takes kick-ass to a whole new level, however, when he acquires a set of Nunchakus and for want of a better phrase, goes to town on the bad guys. The scene is memorable and brilliant, Lee’s flailing Nunchakus and high-pitched yells providing an iconic piece of cinema.

4. .44 Magnum – Dirty Harry

The 1971 crime thriller Dirty Harry stars Clint Eastwood as the titular Inspector ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan, a gritty cop in the San Francisco Police Department. The film is the first in a series of Dirty Harry movies, and the character has become an icon of cinema, and a symbol of Clint Eastwood. Along with his spaghetti western roles, Eastwood is perhaps most well known for his lead in Dirty Harry.

The film features some brilliant and memorable dialogue from Eastwood, and Callahan’s weapon has become synonymous with the action of the film. In one of the best known scenes in the film, Callahan confronts a bank robber following a failed bank robbery. Talking directly to the criminal who is lying on the ground near a shotgun, Dirty Harry produces one of the best lines in cinematic history, and also gives a good description of his iconic signature weapon.

“I know what you’re thinking: “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question. “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do you, punk?”

3. Indy’s Whip – Indiana Jones

Harrison Ford starred in four Indiana Jones films from 1981 through to 2008, providing a brilliant portrayal of the titular 1930’s archaeologist and adventurer. The Indiana Jones franchise found its success from the appealing nature of the character of Indy, along with brilliant settings and engaging storylines.

The character of Indy has many distinct traits and visual cues. His famous fedora was alluded to in the introduction of this article. But what stands out above all, and is symbolic of Indiana Jones, is his whip.

The unusual and iconic weapon has a great history within the Indiana Jones story. We first see it in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and its distinctive crack essentially introduces the character for the very first time. In the jungles of South America, a small group of explorers make their way through the shadows of the forestation. One of the group members produces a revolver, and immediately we know danger is at hand. But a crack of a whip and the flash of the revolver reveal that everything is under control, the situation has been turned around. And out of the shadows, coiling the whip back into his hands, is Indiana Jones. The whip is seen many times again throughout the series of films, and is a truly iconic weapon.

2. Lightsaber – Star Wars

The Star Wars films are known by all and are brilliant pieces of science fiction cinema. The original trilogy, beginning with A New Hope in 1977, was created by George Lucas and starred Mark Hamill as a Jedi knight in a galaxy far, far away. The 1970s were a long time ago, but the original film stands out as a remarkable movie in terms of its influence, dynamics and plot.

The signature weapon of Hamill’s character Luke Skywalker, as well as the Jedis and Sith in general, is the lightsaber. It is a laser sword of brightly coloured light, and is first seen in A New Hope. Throughout the Star Wars series of films the lightsaber makes an appearance, and is often crucial to the storyline. The colours of the lightsabers are symbolic of the characters who use them, and the entire concept in general is a nod to the stereotypical image of a knight in shining armour wielding a sword.

The lightsaber is an iconic weapon, and should be familiar to all. Originally conceived by John Stears out of old camera flash battery packs and other paraphernalia, the distinctive weapon features a beam of light which retracts into a futuristic grip. Korean animator Nelson Shin provided the rotoscoping techniques to illuminate the lightsabers, whilst the memorable sound was achieved by Ben Burtt by accident, when a microphone was dropped near a television and the resulting interference created the noise.

1. Bone – 2001: A Space Odyssey

Number one on this list, and perhaps surprisingly to some, but deservedly so, is the bone from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The 1968 science fiction film is acknowledged as a key movie in the history of motion pictures, and is a benchmark of high quality film production and storywriting. Coupling a dynamic and compelling narrative with a fantastic visual and aesthetic landscape, 2001: A Space Odyssey has no parallels, and stands out as a truly great film.

One of the most memorable and symbolic scenes from 2001: A Space Odyssey is the dawn of man. In the scene, set millions of years into man’s evolutionary past, we see a group of herbivorous early hominids (basically man-apes), and their extremely primitive way of life. During the scene, the monolith appears, and the man-apes carefully and curiously approach it. After making contact with the monolith, the dawn of man is symbolised through a famous and important moment of film. One of the man-apes picks up a bone, and understanding that it can be used as a weapon, kills another man-ape who had driven him from his water-hole. Triumphantly, the man-ape then hurls the bone up into the air.

Through a match-cut editing sequence, the next scene in the film sees the bone replaced by a futuristic space module, signifying the passing of millions of evolutionary years and the influential status of the bone, as essentially the first and most iconic weapon.

 

 

Tags:
  • Adewaj Behal.

    What a great article! I need to watch some of these films!!

    • Jon Lovatt

      Thanks for reading 🙂

%d bloggers like this: