Liam Neeson has played thoughtful and sensitive in movies like "Kinsey," or romantic in "Love Actually," but we love him best when he's slinging swords or kicking butt.
Since he's reprising his role of ex-CIA man Bryan Mills in this week's rip-roaring sequel "Taken 2," we thought we'd refresh your memory on just how big of a badass this 60-year-old Irishman really is before you watch him blow away Albanians for two hours.
9. 'Darkman' (1990)
Before Sam Raimi enabled Tobey Maguire to swing between buildings as Spider-Man, he got Neeson to dangle himself via helicopter for the climactic chase scene in this twisted revenge tale. The actor imbued a delightful theatricality to the eponymous superhero who can change faces… because his done burnt off! He's part Batman, part Phantom of the Opera, and all-Neeson.
8. 'Rob Roy' (1995)
Rob Roy is more than a Scotch-based vermouth drink; he was also a Scottish folk hero who took on feudal landowners in the 1700s. Neeson plays Robert Roy MacGregor — looking downright smashing in his kilt — and, in a climactic duel with the evil Cunningham (Tim Roth), he practically slices the dude in half. Also, bonus points for grabbing the pointy end of his enemy's sword… ouch.
7. 'Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace' (1999)
Here, Neeson was able to transfer his "Rob Roy" swordplay skills to a galaxy far far away as he took on Sith Lord extraordinaire Darth Maul (Ray Park). After his apprentice Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) lags behind, Neeson's Jedi master Qui-Gon goes toe-to-toe with this New Jersey Devils fan and gets run through with a double-sided lightsaber. This is either one of sci-fi's most noble deaths or the worst ad for Doublemint Gum ever.
6. 'Gangs of New York' (2002)
Finally a chance for Neeson to really get his Irish on. It's no jig he's engaged in on the streets of 19th-century New York, though, but full-on turf warfare over the Five Points district. His adversary in this stabby street brawl is Bill "The Butcher" Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), who lives up to his name by carving himself a piece of Liam's Priest. This is one of many turns in which Neeson's death in a film propelled the hero forward, including "Star Wars" and "Kingdom of Heaven."
5. 'Batman Begins' (2005)
Once again, our favorite movie swordsman gets to clang metal onscreen. This time when he's training the goddamn Batman. As ninja leader Ra's al Ghul, he literally takes Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) to school during a precarious sword fight on an ice flow, where he equally taunts and encourages young Bruce to make himself more than just a man. What does he get in return for all the valuable lessons? An exploding train ride, that's what!
4. 'Taken' (2008)
Yes, we know he pretty much singlehandedly takes down the entire worldwide human trafficking network in this sleeper hit, but there's one act of verbal badassery that solidified Neeson's standing as an action star. The "I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you" moment was such a ballsy way to announce the character of ex-CIA op Bryan Mills and his particular set of skills, and paved the way for this week's sequel ... and the inevitable one after that, "Taken Yet Again."
3. 'Clash of the Titans' (2010)
Neeson is probably the only living actor with the gravitas to step into the shoes of Zeus himself, once filled ably by Sir Laurence frickin' Olivier. While he got a chance to toss around some fireballs and stuff in the sequel "Wrath of the Titans," it was his powerful, near-iconic line reading of "Release the Kraken!" that made him downright godly in our eyes.
2. 'The A-Team' (2010)
Col. Hannibal Smith loves it when a plan comes together, but we love it even more when he and his team of ragtag mercenaries are able to pilot a tank while plummeting to the earth AND being shot at by enemy planes. This outrageous set piece belongs to the whole team, but it's Neeson's Smith at the wheel… and it's HIS plan that comes together, so there ya go.
1. 'The Grey' (2012)
Admit it, after seeing this movie you'll never be able to look at mini-bottles of alcohol without pondering the logistics of fighting a wolf. Neeson brought guts of steel while his fellow plane crash survivors had theirs eaten out by man's best friend, but no braver than in the final confrontation. While director Joe Carnahan might have cut away from the actual slicing and dicing, it's the fortitude in Neeson's eyes that says everything in those last moments of absolute badassdom.