Movies have been essential to American culture, thus it stands to reason that guns have been portrayed prominently on the silver screen.
Since its inception, Hollywood has been keen on telling the story of our country’s evolution. Big screen icons like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood have immortalized the classic firearms that played such a significant role in America’s independence and pioneering history, while modern action stars introduced audiences to advances in firearm technology.
Without further ado, here are some of the guns we fell in love with while staring doe-eyed at the big screen.
5 Well do ya…punk?
Harry Callaghan’s .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson 29 in Dirty Harry is perhaps the most popular firearm on this list. It helped that by 1971 Clint Eastwood was a full blown star. Callaghan was every bit the tough as nails law-man as he confidently declares the cannon as being “the most powerful handgun in the world.” the character’s moral conviction and steadfastness in the face of chaos served as an inspiration to freedom-loving firearm enthusiasts around the country.
4 Say hello to my little friend!
As Tony Montana battles for his life against an army of police and DEA agents in the climactic shoot-out at the end of Scarface, he boldly introduces his swan song, an M16A1 rifle with a M-203 grenade-launcher attachment. He proceeds to raise hell before his ultimate demise. The cult-classic film by director Brian De Palma and Al Pacino took grit and neo-realism to a whole new level and further the country’s artistic foray into the world of guns.
3 Yippee Ki Yay…
Two action franchises defined blockbuster success in the 80’s and 90’s by telling gritty cop stories with plenty of explosions and sharp dialogue. The Lethal Weapon and Die Hard series, helmed by Richard Donner and John McTiernan respectively, had many things in common: action-star heartthrobs in the way of Mel Gibson and Bruce Willis, a story about underdog police officer protagonists in extreme situations, and Beretta 92F semi-automatic pistols. The streamlined Italian handguns became United States Armed Forces standard issue in 1985, and they have been a part of American gun culture ever since.
2 I’ll be back.
Austrian-born Arnold Schwarzenegger rose to action-stardom in Hollywood with classic roles like his immortal performance in 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Of the arsenal of weaponry that the titular character wields, the most iconic firearm is perhaps the 10 gauge, sawed-off Winchester model 1887 shotgun he so ably wields why riding a motorcycle and being chased by a mac truck. Winchester is responsible for some of the most revered firearms in American history.
1 Well, there are some things a man just can’t run away from
No discussion of the role of firearms in cinema would be complete without mentioning the quintessential movie cowboy, John Wayne. His portrayal of Ringo Kid in the 1939 classic Stagecoach propelled a career in movies that would define American ideals. The Winchester model 1892 saddle ring carbine, designed by master gunsmith John Browning, would go on to personify the nation’s focus on craftsmanship and excellence.
The significance of the firearm in the survival and progress of the United States is the stuff of legends. It’s not surprising that filmmakers throughout the decades have told the many tales of both villainy and heroism in the way of the gun. America’s love affair with firearms in cinema has not let down, a phenomena that speaks the country’s cultural identity of freedom and justice.