Manners Maketh the Man: Top 10 Gentlemen in Film
With more film knowledge than IMDb and Rotton Tomatoes combined (or at least as much), resident film guru and master of the film universe Gemma – better known as Popcorn Heart – has bestowed upon us a list of ten of cinema’s greatest gentlemen. Avoiding the stereotypical and cliche, she has provided a list of men known to personify all the qualities needed to be the ultimate gentleman.
By Gemma Hurst
What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word gentleman? Do you think of an Armani suit teamed up with a Rolex? Perhaps a fashionable haircut slicked back at all the right angles? A chap casually taking a sip of a fine single malt whisky whilst silently surveying the scenery around him? Hopefully not the Wyclef Jean hit of 2000, “Perfect Gentleman” – I’d like to think that there is a much better anthem than that tripe.
It can differ on people’s opinions on the look and feel of what a gentleman should embody. Without getting too nerdy, I had a look at the definition (just in case it would be a bit embarrassing to not know what something is. Like the time I got samosa and satsuma mixed up… I know the difference now). The Oxford Dictionary classifies the word gentleman as, “ A chivalrous, courteous or honourable man”. There are a few other examples, but this is an article about film and film, good sirs, is what I shall give you.
This time, I wanted to explore the cavaliers that we have witnessed in films past and present. The fellows that personify these qualities. The chaps for whom the audience clap. Simply put, let’s not think of stereotypes. So I have dived head first into the pool of movies (with goggles on – it hurts my eyes if I open them underwater) and front crawled my way through the individuals who exhibit the role of a perfect gentleman. Now please could someone pass me a towel?
Forrest Gump – Forrest Gump (1994)
An odd first choice, I can hear you musing. But hear me out – Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) may be the most gentlemanly chap ever. This character is the manifestation of chivalry, courtesy an honour. You’ve only got to look at everything he faces in his wonderful life to confirm this (in his list of achievements you will see spoilers, but it has been 21 years so the blame is on you); everything he does is for his mother (Sally Field), he tried to save his best friend Bubba (Mykelti Williamson) in the brutal jungles of Vietnam, kept his word and ensured Bubba’s family would get his share of profit from Bubba Gump Shrimp, cared and loved his childhood sweetheart Jenny (Robin Wright) in her hour of need and more… this guy is the perfect blueprint for a fully rounded gentleman.
OK, so he wears suits that the KFC Colonel might approve of and hair that seems to be precisely measured to the nearest millimetre, but is that necessary? The world would be a better place if we had more Forrest Gump’s.
Gustave H. – The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
This dapper specimen greeted you upon your entrance of the exquisite Grand Budapest Hotel as the finest concierge known to man.
Everything about Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) is so on point – the perfect purple panoply, side parting combed by Zeus himself and an etiquette too elegant for this world. OK, so he may have been a prime suspect in a wealthy old lady’s murder. And he might have stole a priceless painting. And been a bit mean to Zero the Lobby Boy (Tony Revolori). But his character comes full circle and realises just how important his friends are in their crusade to outwit the evil Jopling (Willem Dafoe). And the heartbreaking conclusion after acknowledging Zero’s capabilities, he almost sacrifices himself to defend his friend.
What a guy.
John Coffey – The Green Mile (1999)
He is John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) like the drink, only not spelled the same. And he had us all roaring into our handkerchiefs with his compassion for a world so cruel around him.
He had the mindset of a child and had an undoubtable fear of the dark, yet built like a factory. So why is he in the list? Again, it goes back to moving away from the stereotypical look of what is perceived as a gentleman. Coffey’s extraordinary gift was used for good. He cures prison guard Paul (Tom Hanks) of his urinary infection. He resurrects Mr Jingles, the mouse we all had to feel for. He healed the Warden’s wife of an inoperable brain tumour. And Coffey absorbed the badness of these ailments. He wanted to help his fellow human beings. Sadly, the two murdered little girls could not be saved and Coffey was beside himself.
To help others without a common thought about one’s self is a noble act of being a gentleman.
Alfred – Batman Begins (2005) / The Dark Knight (2008) / The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Let’s face it, Sir Michael Caine HAD to appear on the list. Nay MUST appear. His most gentleman of roles can be seen as the ever loyal and trustworthy butler to Bruce Wayne (a man who’s rich beyond his wildest dreams and likes to run around in a leather bat suit). Many would ultimately associate the caped crusader as being a worthy associate for this article. However, dear Alfred has looked after the millionaire since his parents’ death, has made sure no one knows about his hero-playing ways and will always give a good bit of advice when needed.
Alfred is the Grandfather you wish you had in your family and when you throw into the melting pot that it’s Caine himself… well, would there be any further explanation needed? A true connoisseur.
Guy – Once (2006)
A musical with real depth and not a cheesy dance routine in sight, Once displays such chivalrous intentions from our hero of the story, simply known as Guy (no name was referred to him throughout the film. So he really could be anyone. Charlie, Gunther, Weapon X but Guy is good too). He shows such charm with his flourishing relationship with Girl (Marketa Irglova again, check the credits) and continuously puts others before himself. With the push given from Girl and his doting father, Guy then allows himself to pursue his dreams of becoming a successful singer and songwriter. But not before exhibiting a gesture showing he will never forget this inspirational figure urging him to chase his true calling.
Giving Girl the piano she tells him about in order to make her truly happy is a beautiful salute of his gentleman prowess. Atta boy, Guy.
Maximus – Gladiator (2000)
Every actor has a career defining role, and no doubt this was Russell Crowe’s. Then he went a bit weird like the world owed him a favour and citing passive aggressive poetry, however that is not here or now. I want to state my case why Maximus was a true gent. He was appointed at the helm of the Roman Army as he was a trustworthy and moral candidate – the kind of guy you could lend a DVD to and know you’d get it back. But jealousy and murder ensure that this doesn’t happen and results in the tragic execution of his wife and son. Maximus is then sold into slavery and trained to be a prized gladiator – all the while with his main goal of avenging the ruthless killing of his family. What to remember about this is that Maximus’ family was his lifeline so everything he did was for the love of his companion and offspring.
When realising his goal was achieved whilst dying in the arena, he could rest a happy man. Love was what made him a fine specimen of a gentleman.
Tallahassee – Zombieland (2009)
Sometimes the road to redemption can be tougher than a gristly bit of steak. This can be the same for becoming a gentleman (except I don’t know anyone who prefers to eat a fatty piece of beef). A good example is Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee; a redneck, guntoting hillbilly who is hellbent
on ridding the Earth of the undead and scoffing his face with Twinkies. “Where’s the honour in this?”, I hear a select few cry.
Simple – you get the understanding of his actions in his brutal of revelation about the death of his family, proving he is a supportive link to the
chain of friends he is with and willing to lay down his safety for the security of the others. It’s a noble sacrifice to make and is a quality that is a necessity to being a gentleman.
Also, sometimes a snakeskin leather jacket is just as good as a tuxedo.
John Keating – Dead Poet’s Society (1989)
Watching characters in film evolve and change is always so interesting, but there’s nothing like watching these characters be influenced by a character you can be on side with. And we see this in the liberally minded John Keating (Robin Williams), who teaches his English students in the most unorthodox of ways. So standing on a table is not what you often saw in geography classes, however it’s the constant encouragement that Keating shows to the boys that other teachers simply dismissed.
Seeing an individual connect to the collection of youths in a way that appears foreign to them is nothing short of an air punch when you see the results paying off. The gratitude of the class in the infamous “Oh Captain My Captain” scene is simply rewarding and the audience are safe in the knowledge that they have adopted the honourable characteristics that Keating bestowed upon them.
Harry Hart / Galahad – Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)
First things first – Colin Firth is an undeniable badass in this. Yet he also displays exquisite behaviour one can immediately recognise as being gentlemanly. He serves as a father figure to the new rookie Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and helps to guide him to being a spy with impeccable presentation – both physically and mentally. The instant qualification was rectified in the bar brawl scene – has there ever been a fight with such high class behaviour?
Fashion that would make David Gandy look like a hobo and wit sharper than an Armani suit yet deadlier than the thought of land sharks roaming the Earth. Galahad is one of the smoothest spies shown on the silver screen and was a defining role model for the next generation of Kingsmen agents. Bar the church scene (which, let’s face it, wasn’t really his fault), he personifies the very values of what makes a gentleman.
Christian – Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Love is a funny thing. It can save people, make someone go mad beyond belief or in this case it can make a chap sing almost note perfect with a conveniently placed musical orchestra nowhere to be seen. Christian (Ewan McGregor), a bohemian dreamer falls hopelessly in love with showgirl Satine (Nicole Kidman) but like great love stories, obstacles have been strategically placed to make the course of their relationship trickier than a twelvesided Rubik’s Cube.
He stays true to his courtesy of Satine, even meaning pain and suffering to his person and by the end of the movie we see Christian a broken man. However, he still lives by the mantra of, “The greatest love you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return”. With his relationship to Satine, he will forever hold this with him. Sniff.
Being a gentleman is an all rounded personification. You can get the look on point, but it’s like having a cardboard cutout of a Maserati. I mean, it looks very pleasant but where’s the engine? It also looks a bit bizarre having a large picture of a car that you can’t necessarily drive. Plus it is damn near impossible to drive. But I digress – gentleman can come in all types of guises. As long as the qualities are there, then it’s a proud label any man can carry.
To keep up to date with all of Popcorn Heart’s infallible music knowledge and trivia, be sure to follow her on twitter at @Popcorn_Heart_, on Facebook at facebook.com/popcornheartblog or at her website, www.popcorn-heart.blogspot.co.uk
Can you think of any gentlemen that should have appeared on the list? Let us know in the comments below!