if you don’t want to be counting the fingers you haven’t got, i suggest…

for some years now, our narrator janklow has been foretold to one day be that salty old man who sits on his porch, possibly with some sort of scatter-gun, yelling at those “damn kids” for whatever offenses they might be committing that day until whenever it’s time for him to be shipped off to that inevitable nursing home to be poorly fed and possibly robbed by shady orderlies. and frankly, it’s possible that i AM that salty old man right now. so it might not come as much of a surprise to you that when there’s a colorful, salty old man in a movie, it makes my day.

so just for that one reader out there who “needs more “13” lists” (you know who you are), here we go with a totally unnecessary one about awesome old dudes in movies. and just for the sake of… uh, whatever? randomness? sure, for the sake of randomness, i’m going to try and make this about supporting characters only. how delightfully specific!


honorable mention: William Munny (Clint Eastwood) in Unforgiven (1992): Munny is old and, as you might have guessed from an Eastwood character in a dark, modern western, the saltiest man of all time; he kills the hell out of many deserving people and further notes that he’s “killed women and children … killed everything that walks or crawls at one time or another.” but, you know what, he’s not a supporting character.

Captain Harris
“where are you going to pull back TO, lieutenant?” it’s a lovely fucking war, indeed

13. Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) in No Country For Old Men (2007)
so wouldn’t you know it, i’m going to start this listicle off by cheating, because Bell is secretly the main character of this story. the key word is secretly, because you (and most everyone else) would be forgiven for thinking that Moss (Josh Brolin) is the ACTUAL man character here… but you’d be wrong, and if you ever have the pleasure of reading the book, you’ll realize this as you note how the narrative is structured around Bell’s story. but more to the point: he’s fairly salty and serves as a low-key stream of comic relief for the film, and that’s cool.

12. Fifi (Roger Ward) in Mad Max (1979)
granted, Fifi’s got the least salty name of all time (although there’s GOT to be something to be said for a man about whom no ones smirks when they use his sobriquet “Fifi”) and definitely rocks some weird neck-related attire in this feature, but at the same time, he’s also got outstanding facial hair and a gruff nature, and these are classic salty old dude characteristics. plus, “grizzled motorcycle cops” is the perfect field for salty old dudes to work in.

11. Captain Harris (Dale Dye) in Platoon (1986)
granted, Harris gets very minimal screen time in this film, and his character is clearly torn on the debate between moral correctness (Dafoe’s side) and unshakable killing machines who themselves cannot be killed (Berenger’s side), but if it makes you feel better, consider this a tribute to ALL of Dale Dye’s salty old man roles. i’m pretty sure he’s never played a character that wasn’t a salty old man, even in Under Siege. still, he does have one of the best salty-old-guy-in-a-war-movie lines ever: “for the record, it’s my call. dump everything you got left on my pos. i say again, expend all remaining in my perimeter. it’s a lovely fucking war.”

10. Mr. Eckert (Harry Dean Stanton) in Red Dawn (1984)
okay, okay, i’ll admit it: if you’re in a movie i really, really love (and maybe, just maybe, have ridiculous stickers promoting on my car), all you have to do to make this list is a) be old enough to qualify as old on the most tenuous of levels (father of Patrick Swayze = check), b) be salty enough to the same extent (modern-day mountain man hunter in Colorado who drinks deer blood = check) and c) have a classic line of dialogue (boys … AVENGE ME! = check). and there you have it.

the Stranger
“the Dude abides. i don’t know about you but i take comfort in that. it’s good knowing he’s out there … taking ‘er easy for all us sinners.”

09. Jean-Pierre (Michael Lonsdale) in Ronin (1998)
okay, Jean-Pierre isn’t a particularly salty old dude, and he’s easily far from the baddest dude in this film, which is sort of to be expected when Robert De Niro and Jean Reno and Sean Bean are going on a guns-blazing-and-cars-crashing rampage across Europe, even if Bean comes off as sort of a bitch in this movie. but that’s besides the point! anyway, Jean-Pierre is more the resigned old dude who helps you perform surgery on random guys in his house, talks about samurai a lot, and makes world-weary statements like “at the end of the day we are likely to be punished for our kindnesses.” i can relate. okay, maybe not to the surgery thing, but you get the idea.

08. Egg Shen (Victor Wong) in Big Trouble In Little China (1986)
another awesome kind of salty old dude is the kind that seems both patient with the lack of wisdom possessed by the young (exemplified in this case by Kurt Russell, who may pack a flowing mane of 1980s hair and some stellar reflexes, but isn’t much in the brains department) AND to have magical powers. or maybe they’re religious powers? considering Shen’s declaration about this all being “a mixture of Buddhism, “Confusionism,” and Taoist black magic … we take what we like and throw the rest away,” who the hell knows? but if there’s ever an old dude who has a magical drink that can make you see things no man can see and do things no man can do… well, you drink that man’s drink! and then just watch out for lightning and so on.

07. the Stranger (Sam Elliott) in the Big Lebowski (1998)
again… not the saltiest guy in the world. but we’re still talking about an old guy with cowboy apparel and an absolutely peerless mustache who combines a laid-back demeanor with some classic old dude wisdom (“sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you”). and if you doubt his old man credentials, well, just keep in mind that he loves sarsaparilla while seeming to object to rampant expletives. and every single old person i know LOVES sarsaparilla and HATES profanity. i know, i know, it seems crazy. it’s just how old people are.

06. X (Donald Sutherland) in JFK (1991)
sometimes, life seems overly long and overly complicated and dominated by the unsubstantiated and inherently wishful (despite the fact that calling the beliefs in question “wishful” feels wrong) theories of weird people … and those are the times when i make these long-winded comparisons between life and the movie JFK. and at those times, i wish i had a salty old man named X (or whatever, his name is not the most important thing) show up and quickly explain a massive amount of information and events to me quickly and concisely so that my life could progress more smoothly. doesn’t that just sound nice?

Barry the Baptist
“oh, you must be the brains of the operation”

05. Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon) in Layer Cake (2004)
Gambon is definitely one of those guys made to play salty old men; he’s so good at it than i can, if i try, forgive him for taking part in the goddamn travesty that was the film Mobsters. but that’s okay, because into each life, a little rain must fall. or, to put it another way: “you’re born, you take shit. you get out in the world, you take more shit. you climb a little higher, you take less shit. until one day you’re up in the rarefied atmosphere and you’ve forgotten what shit even looks like. welcome to the layer cake, son.” amen.

04. Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley (Sam Elliott) in We Were Soldiers (2002)
occasionally, there are salty dudes who are so salty that you’re pretty sure they can’t be killed, and that you might suspect, deep down, could burst out of their coffins and administer an old-fashioned old dude’s ass-kicking should you, say, get out of line at their funeral, or any other place adjacent to their coffin. Plumley was (is?) one of those guys, and it never gets old to hear one of his angry, angry declarations, whether it’s “Custer was a pussy” or “gentlemen, prepare to defend yourselves” or “if any of you sons of bitches calls me grandpa, i’ll kill you.”

03. Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) in Reservoir Dogs (1992)
this role probably shouldn’t have had a fake name like “Joe Cabot”; Lawrence Tierney should simply have been playing “Lawrence Tierney” and more attention should have been paid to explaining how the sloppy mess that is Chris Penn could have sprung from his loins. Lawrence Tierney’s children are assuredly a cross between gargoyles and bulldogs. he also makes me want to work this exchange into my daily usage: “so, you guys like to tell jokes, huh? gigglin’ and laughin’ like a bunch of young broads sittin’ in a schoolyard. well, let me tell a joke.” i can at least remember to growl at non-tippers and call them cheap bastards.

02. Barry the Baptist (Lenny McLean) in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
now, Barry the Baptist is a salty, salty old dude in this movie, and frankly, as much as i love Vinny Jones’ various psychopathic characters, and as over-the-top violent as said Jones characters get… i still find Barry the Baptist more ominous (and infinitely more salty, as Jones is never salty, only deranged). this is, of course, because of Lenny McLean possibly being, at one time, “the hardest man in Britain” and fighter in, presumably, hundreds and hundreds of bare-knuckle boxing matches. should i separate the man from the role? alas, i cannot. also, 1998 was really a good year for salty old dudes in movies.

Wade Garrett
“a man puts a gun in your face, you got two choices: stand there and die, or kill the motherfucker!”

01. Wade Garrett (Sam Elliott) in Road House (1989)
given how Sam Elliott has already dominated this listicle (this would be his third entry on this listicle) and given how obsessed i am with Road House… really, what was the likelihood that this wouldn’t be entry number one? he fights youngsters and advises them not to eat urinal cakes!

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