For years, it’s been said that girls are attracted to bad boys. However, there are times when some of these “bad” boys are only bad in name only while others live up to the name. Sometimes a guy is only seen as a “bad boy” just because he’s attractive and has an undesirable flaw. Here I have a list of some of the best defined bad boys of the Old Hollywood years (before 1970) and try to determine on a criteria on whether they are really as bad as people make them out to be. With each known “bad boy” I’ll ask questions whether he’s criminally inclined, gets along with his family or friends, mentally stable, potentially abusive and/or physically violent, whether he has trouble keeping a legal job, whether he’s sufficiently bad as the rest of the cast, if he respects women, and whether he’s actually interested or uses people. Of course, some factors matter more than others. So here is a list of Old Hollywood bad boys and whether they are really “bad” or just a good looking guy with an undesirable flaw. (I’ll only show those who are likeable around women since they are the hot point of debate. Also, I’ll only list the iconic ones from classic films, history, or literature.)
1. Jim Stark
From: Rebel Without a Cause, played by James Dean
Is he criminally inclined? Well, he skipped home, was caught for underage drinking, and participated in street racing but only under peer pressure and really felt bad about it. Still, his criminal behavior doesn’t deviate from what one would expect from a teenager.
Does he get along with family or friends? Though he doesn’t make friends easily he does get along with those nice to him. And though he may have trouble getting along with his parents, he nevertheless loves them.
Is he mentally stable? Well, he has issues but compared to his friend Plato (Sal Mineo) he is.
Is he potentially abusive or physically violent? He has a bad temper but is only physically violent when he gets really angry or upset. Also, he’s no where near as abusive as some of the characters.
Does he have trouble keeping a legal job? This isn’t relevant in the movie.
Is he worse than most of the cast? No, for there are plenty of worse people in the cast like Plato and the gang of school bullies.
Does he respect women? Actually treats Judy (Natalie Wood) better than her old man and one of her boyfriends. He certainly doesn’t physically hurt any women.
Does he care about his love interest? Well, let’s just say he takes more of an emotional interest in Judy than a physical one and probably wouldn’t want anything to do with him if she was mean to him. Whether he loves her, I can’t really say.
Verdict: Though Jim may have serious issues and is nowhere near perfect, he’s actually not much worse than what you’d expect from most teenagers. And compared to most of the teenage boys in the cast, he’s actually one least self-destructive and nicest guys around.
2. Cal Trask
From: East of Eden, played by James Dean
Is he criminally inclined? Not really.
Does he get along with family or friends? Well, though he seems to act perfectly fine with characters outside his family, his relationship with his family is dysfunctional. For one, his mother deserted and neglected her family when him and his brother were very young and had nothing to with them until the start of the film. Though Cal adores his deeply religious father, his dad doesn’t really think much about him and makes it no secret that he favors his brother Aron. And with Aron, Cal is basically jealous of him but later drives him insane and steals his girlfriend. Let’s just say it’s complicated.
Is he mentally stable? Sure he has serious issues but he’s pretty much grounded in reality.
Is he abusive or physically violent? Only with his brother and only when mad.
Does he have trouble keeping a legal job? Not only does he have no trouble keeping a job, he’s also a very successful as an entrepreneurial farmer and businessman. His bean growing experiment earned him a considerable profit.
Is he worse than most of the cast? Well, with the exception of Abra (Julie Harris), the sheriff (Burl Ives), and a few others, you might think that. He’s definitely a better person than his mother.
Does he respect women? Well, he doesn’t physically hurt them. Still, it depends on whether some women are nice to him.
Does he care about his love interest? Let’s just say he wouldn’t steal Abra away from Aron if he wasn’t emotionally drawn to her since she’s one of the few characters who’s nice to him.
Verdict: Cal may do some bad things but he is not a bad boy at all. He has some issues and is certainly labeled that, but most evidence points to the contrary. He just doesn’t get along with his family.
3. Lewton McCanles
From: Duel in the Sun, played by Gregory Peck
Is he criminally inclined? Yes, commits rape and murder multiple times, shoots his own brother unarmed, and derails a train.
Does he get along with family or friends? He may get along with his father and some of the ranch hands but he doesn’t have a good relationship with his mother or brother who both aren’t happy being related to him.
Is he mentally stable? He’s very prone to self-destructive behavior, especially towards the end.
Is he abusive or physically violent? Oh, yes, very much so. He’s controlling and has an explosive temper. He rapes Jennifer Jones and shoots Joseph Cotten and Charles Bickford. Oh, he and Jennifer Jones both die in a shoot out.
Does he have trouble keeping a legal job? Not really but he works on his family ranch.
Is he worse than most of the cast? When it comes to inflicting violence, absolutely. When it comes to attitudes of the day, not really.
Does he respect women? Not at all. He and his mother don’t get along and he treats Pearl (Jennifer Jones) like shit and does whatever he wants with her without considering her feelings. Not to mention, he’s also very possessive and controlling of her.
Does he care about his love interest? Though it’s hard to say whether he loves Pearl, he certainly doesn’t care enough for her to consider her feelings or obtain her consent when it comes to sex. To him she just exists to sexually fulfill him until he’s done with her, or so it appears.
Verdict: For those who think that he can’t be that terrible because he’s played by Gregory Peck, I believe you are sorely mistaken. Lewton McCanles is perhaps a “bad boy” in the truest sense. Avoid men like him at all costs.
4. Stanley Kowalski
From: A Streetcar Named Desire, played by Marlon Brando
Is he criminally inclined? Well, he’s a rapist and one of the most famous domestic abusers of all time.
Does he get along with family or friends? He can be a bully to Mitch (Karl Malden) and perhaps some of his other friends. As far as the play is concerned, he has a happy enough marriage with Stella (Kim Hunter). However, he doesn’t much care for her sister Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) at all.
Is he mentally stable? Well, he does make a point about Blanche and is capable of rational thought, but he has an explosive temper. And he’s crying like a baby when Stella tries to leave him. Still, don’t call him a “polack.”
Is he abusive or physically violent? Not only is he verbally abusive to just about everyone, but he also beats his pregnant wife and rapes his sister-in-law. Not to mention, he’s very selfish and controlling.
Does he have trouble keeping a legal job? Not at all.
Is he worse than most of the cast? Absolutely, though Blanche does come close since she moonlighted as a prostitute and got fired from her teaching job for having sex with a seventeen-year-old boy.
Does he respect women? Well, he certainly doesn’t respect Blanche and doesn’t treat Stella much better. Then again, he’s probably not a misogynist because he treats everyone like shit.
Does he care about his love interest? Let’s just say he didn’t marry Stella just because she was from a more affluent background and no matter how bad he treats her, he can’t live without her.
Verdict: Stanley is an abusive and violent man who no one should dare associate with. He’s as bad as everyone makes him out to be.
5. Terry Malloy
From: On the Waterfront, played by Marlon Brando
Is he criminally inclined? His brother is a gangster so probably, though the worst thing he does is help the local crime syndicate knock off his friend Jimmy Doyle.
Does he get along with family or friends? Though he loves his brother Charley (Rod Steiger) his relationship with him is strained. Of course with everyone else, it depends on whether he’s a priest, a stevedore, or a gangster as well as the point in the film. Still, he’s great with kids and pigeons though.
Is he mentally stable? He’s unhappy at himself for his failed boxing career as well as guilty of betraying his friend. He does get better though.
Is he abusive or physically violent? Not really, but if you ever are violent toward him, he will beat you up. Also, used to be a boxer.
Does he have trouble keeping a legal job? He may not have a boxing career but he does work as a stevedore so, no.
Is he worse than most of the cast? No, Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb) and his associates are much worse including Charley.
Does he respect women? Hard to say since Eva Marie Saint is the only girl in the cast but he’s not a bad guy towards her though and does testify against the people responsible for killing her brother.
Does he care about his love interest? Yes, he certainly does since she was his friend’s little sister and does give her the awful truth.
Verdict: Though Terry may seem bad at first, it’s actually pretty complicated to say since he’s pretty conflicted between his brother and doing what’s right. After Charley is killed, however, he’s certainly not. Still, he doesn’t think well of himself.
From: Wuthering Heights, played by Sir Laurence Olivier
Is he criminally inclined? How he made his fortune is legally questionable so we really can’t say. But he tries to ruin Hindley’s life through legal means.
Does he get along with family or friends? Well, he’s fine with people who are nice to him and/or don’t betray him. Yet, even that is no guarantee since the Lintons are nice and he treats them horribly, ditto Catherine Earnshaw (Merle Oberon) when she dumps him. Still, with his surrogate family, he’s nice to Catherine’s father but terrible to her brother Hindley.
Is he mentally stable? He has a terrible temper and a vicious streak to make everyone who’s ever wronged him pay. Also, he’s very much prone to self-destruction and has a tendency to drag others with him.
Is he abusive or physically violent? He’s controlling, vengeful, and has a short fuse, especially when she decides to date Linton (David Niven). He’s also terrible to everyone else. As for physically violent, no.
Does he have trouble keeping a legal job? We can’t really be sure since we don’t know how he made his fortune.
Is he worse than most of the cast? It soon becomes that way since Linton, Hindley, and Catherine made him the monster he became.
Does he respect women? No, since he’s willing to marry one girl he has no feelings for just to get back at her sister-in-law. And he treats his wife like shit. Not to mention, he’s controlling and possessive of Catherine and the two don’t have the healthiest relationship.
Does he care about his love interest? Has been in love with Catherine since they were kids and continues to love her even though they marry other people and have a very destructive relationship. As for his wife, Isabella (Geraldine Fitzgerald) not at all.
Verdict: Heathcliff may not be violent but he is certainly a bad boy since he makes it his mission to ruin people’s lives who wronged him, including Catherine. Definitely not a guy to bring home.
7. Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy
From: Pride and Prejudice, played by Sir Laurence Olivier
Is he criminally inclined? No.
Does he get along with family or friends? From what we know of, he tries to be nice to aunt and is very protective of his sister. Also, though he does make his friend Bingley break up with Jane, it wasn’t out of malicious intent.
Is he mentally stable? Most of the time unless you mention George Wickam.
Is he abusive or physically violent? He’s not violent or abusive at all. He doesn’t have a pleasant personality and isn’t the most tactful, however.
Does he have trouble keeping a legal job? For God’s sake he’s already stinking rich to begin with, probably doesn’t need one.
Is he worse than most of the cast? Well, in regards with social skills probably. Still, other than George Wickam, most of the cast consists of reasonably nice people.
Does he respect women? Absolutely, he knows a bad guy like George Wickam when he sees one even though he may not be the most socially inclined. Not to mention, he’s nice to Elizabeth Bennett (Greer Garson) and her family as well as everyone else.
Does he care about his love interest? Well, he does fall in love with Elizabeth Bennett and they do get married. Besides, he bailed out of an arranged marriage for her and doesn’t need to marry for money so a match with Elizabeth Bennett isn’t going to help him much. So yeah, he certainly cares about her.
Verdict: Though Mr. Darcy has an issue with rubbing people the wrong way, his biggest flaws are poor social skills and having an unpleasant personality. He isn’t a bad boy in the slightest and once you get to know him, you see that he’s a perfectly okay guy. So, ladies, it’s perfectly fine to swoon over him.
From: Hamlet, played by Sir Laurence Olivier
Is he criminally inclined? Well, when it comes against his uncle, he may be. Oh, yeah, he does kill Polonius and Laertes.
Does he get along with family or friends? Only Horatio and maybe his servants and a few others. He doesn’t seem to get along with everyone else. Relations with his mom and uncle have been strained since his father died, his uncle took the throne and married his mother. As with Polonius, Laertes, and Ophelia, probably not.
Is he mentally stable? On a few things as it turns out, but he may just be pretending to be nuts most of the time.
Is he abusive or physically violent? Yes, he certainly is since he doesn’t say nice things to Gertrude or Ophelia and he does kill three people including a guy through a curtain. Also, he’s living in the Middle Ages.
Does he have trouble keeping a legal job? He’s a prince so he’s already born with one and keeping it isn’t really on his mind.
Is he worse than most of the cast? In regards to most of the cast, he’s facing pretty stiff competition.
Does he respect women? When he told Ophelia to “get thee to a nunnery” he may not have necessarily told her to go to a convent. Also, he says a lot of terrible things to his mom which probably goes to say he doesn’t really respect women much.
Does he care about his love interest? Remember he told Ophelia to “get thee to a nunnery.” Besides, I don’t think Laertes and Polonius believe so he probably doesn’t.
Verdict: Sure Hamlet may have issues with his family, but though he may not be the worst guy on the list, he’s still not boyfriend material.
9. Rhett Butler
From: Gone With the Wind, played by Clark Gable
Is he criminally inclined? Well, he obviously gets rich in legally dubious ways. But he’s not inclined to do anything violent. Oh, wait.
Does he get along with family or friends? Well, he gets along well with his friends but not so much with his family. Spoils his daughter Bonnie like rotten though he tries to be a good dad. Also, him and Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) have a tempestuous relationship but pretty much deserve each other. Still, when it comes to certain relationships, he tends to have the wrong ideas and can’t seem to handle Scarlett’s immaturity.
Is he mentally stable? Most of the time except when his daughter dies and when it comes to Scarlett’s association with Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard). He tends be a very jealous guy.
Is he abusive or physically violent? Well, he served in the war. Not to mention, he’s very prone to explode at times and may have raped Scarlett after Ashley’s birthday party and later pushed her down the stairs, which he felt bad about later.
Does he have trouble keeping a legal job? Well, he did serve in the Confederate army but joined up at the last minute. In the civilian world, I’m not sure if he ever tried.
Is he worse than most of the cast? In regards to race and the Old South, definitely not. Still, he’s pretty decent compared to some unsavory characters.
Does he respect women? In regards to women in general, he’s certainly very polite and courteous. Sure he may have his moments with Scarlett but he tries to be good to her.
Does he care about his love interest? Oh, my God, Scarlett is the love of his life and would do anything for her though he does eventually leave her. He’ll probably be back once she grows up a little.
Verdict: Rhett is an interesting case. Sure he may have his moments but he’s pretty repentant about them most of the time and is mostly a decent guy but may not have much understanding about relationships. Still, the way he earns his money makes him a borderline criminal, is very prone to jealousy, and can have the tendency to explode. As far as I’m concerned he’s a toss up.
10. James Bond
From: The James Bond Franchise, mostly played by Sean Connery
Is he criminally inclined? Oh, yes, since he does many things in his job that would put many people in jail.
Does he get along with family or friends? We know nothing about his family but he does cooperate with his co-workers and secretary. Just as long as you don’t try to kill him.
Is he mentally stable? He doesn’t have the healthy lifestyle and may be pretty prone to self-destructive behavior. Then again, self-destructive tendencies make him perfectly suited for his job.
Is he abusive or physically violent? Only toward villains who try to do any harm to him most of the time. Kind of goes with his job.
Does he have trouble keeping a legal job? Well, as long as the job is a way to make good use of his criminal and self-destructive tendencies, which benefit society as a whole.
Is he worse than most of the cast? No, since he’s around people who are much worse than he is. As with the good guys, I’m not sure.
Does he respect women? Well, he’s nice to his female coworkers and most of his flings in the series are usually consensual. Furthermore he’s willing to save them from the bad guys. And will only take them on when he has a legitimate reason to. Sure he may be a playboy who goes for attractive women doesn’t mean he doesn’t respect them. Besides, many of his women are in his line of work so it’s not like they’re looking for a husband or anything so they probably know what to expect.
Does he care about his love interest? He certainly doesn’t just see them as mere gorgeous sex objects like the movies make them out to be. I mean he kind of does see them as human beings and doesn’t really care about their sexual pasts as well as rarely exhibits any abusive behavior. Not to mention, his love interests seem to know that their sexual relationship with Bond will be casual and short-lived and don’t seem to mind. Still, hookup culture may be an accepted norm in the intelligence community in Bond’s setting.
Verdict: Bond may not be someone you’d want in a committed relationship nor a great role model, but though he may be bad at least he admits it and most of the women he’s involved with know what they’re getting into. Still, if you’re looking for a one night stand, you can do plenty worse than 007. He may be a playboy but he’s certainly a gentleman, just don’t expect much from him relationship wise.
11. Johnny Strabler
From: The Wild One, played by Marlon Brando
Is he criminally inclined? Yeah, but his crimes mostly range in stealing, vandalism, street harassment, and causing a public nuisance. He’s certainly a social deviant.
Does he get along with family or friends? Well, he’s good to his fellow gang members but there’s something about his rebelliousness that suggests he had a troubled childhood.
Is he mentally stable? Judging by the fact he rides a motorcycle without a helmet, you can say he does have a tendency for self-destructive behavior, which does come back to bite him. Also, his anger doesn’t help him much.
Is he abusive or physically violent? Well, he certainly doesn’t play well with others but he’s more violent to objects and rival gang members than regular townspeople.
Does he have trouble keeping a legal job? If he keeps up with his lifestyle he certainly will.
Is he worse than most of the cast? To some extent, yes, when it comes to the police blotter. But let’s just say members of the rival motorcycle gang in the film is far worse than him.
Does he respect women? Well, he really doesn’t have much respect for anyone. Still, he’s nice to Kathie and her dad’s a cop and rescues her.
Does he care about his love interest? Yes, he does care about Kathie and though he’s attracted to her, he know she’s better off without him and refuses to take her with him. But he does give her a stolen trophy to express his gratitude for all she’s done.
Verdict: Johnny may be a social deviant as well as fairly immature, but he’s mostly harmless other than that. Still, you wouldn’t let this guy date your daughter though. He’s probably a toss up.
12. Mr. Edward Rochester
From: Jane Eyre, played by Orson Welles
Is he criminally inclined? No, except in bigamy and possible domestic abuse but he lives in the 1800s.
Does he get along with family or friends? Well, he’s willing acknowledge paternal responsibility for a girl who may not be his. Of course, he keeps his wife in an attic. He seems all right with his servants and others and takes a special shine to Jane Eyre (Joan Fontaine).
Is he mentally stable? He might but he keeps his wife in his attic, which may spark considerable doubt on his sanity.
Is he abusive or physically violent? I’m not sure if keeping your wife in an attic qualifies as spousal abuse in the 1800s but it certainly does to me.
Does he have trouble keeping a legal job? He’s pretty rich so I don’t think he needs one.
Is he worse than most of the cast? Jane’s relatives and teachers were far worse to her than he was.
Does he respect women? Let’s just say he dated a girl just to make Jane jealous or throw off suspicion of his attraction to his governess. Not to mention, he tried to marry Jane even though he already had a wife she didn’t know about. Then there’s the keeping of his wife in the attic thing.
Does he care about his love interest? Let’s just say he probably loves Jane but I’m not sure if he cared about her happiness when he tried to marry her. He certainly didn’t tell her he was already married and kept his wife in the attic. Yet, she still goes back to him.
Verdict: Mr. Rochester may no be the worst guy around but he does have his share of selfishness and the whole keeping his wife in the attic thing. Not to mention, Jane could do better. I’ll just put him at toss up.
13. Clyde Barrow
From: Bonnie and Clyde, played by Warren Beatty
Is he criminally inclined? Yes, and a very notorious one at that who’s even done prison time. The real Clyde Barrow was very much this as well. Said to be a careless and remorseless killer in pursuit of small stakes.
Does he get along with family or friends? Oh, he certainly does get along with his brother and sister-in-law. And he seems pretty decent to Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) as well as fellow criminals and others. In real life, he also had close relationships with his mother and sister. Yet, he wasn’t sympathetic to the dispossessed though and hated cops.
Is he mentally stable? Well, let’s just say he’s very prone to inciting violence and has self-destructive tendencies. Not to mention, he was known for speeding Ford V-8s (even writing to Henry Ford about his appreciation for them).
Is he abusive or physically violent? Well, he’s certainly violent all right.
Does he have trouble keeping a legal job? If he had one, he certainly would.
Is he worse than most of the cast? Well, he’s a violent criminal who robs banks so I’d say so even if he is portrayed sympathetically. Him and Bonnie weren’t saints.
Does he respect women? When it comes to “his women” he might as in real life. Yet, outside his circle doesn’t seem to respect anyone else. In real life, Clyde mostly called the shots and Bonnie went along.
Does he care about his love interest? Both in the film and in real life it’s hard to say whether him and Bonnie were really in love or that Bonnie was willing to tag along because she might have had a mental disorder that made her attracted to serious violent men remains questionable. As for Clyde’s sexual orientation, there’s considerable evidence he was reasonably straight.
Verdict: No matter what you make of it. Both in real life and in cinema, Clyde was certainly a guy you didn’t want to be around at all.
14. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
From: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, played by Paul Newman and Robert Redford
Are they criminally inclined? Oh, yes, both rob trains and banks as well as kill people. Butch engages in prostitution. But they usually try to avoid killing as much as they could.
Do they get along with family or friends? As long as those people aren’t cops. Yet, they pretty much get along with their friends and Sundance’s girlfriend Etta Place.
Are they mentally stable? Well, let’s just say their sanity is questionable since they tend to expose themselves to danger a lot. And they do eventually get killed. In real life, we’re not so sure.
Are they abusive or physically violent? Well, they shoot people and blow up trains so they’re certainly violent.
Do they have trouble keeping a legal job? They tried to do legitimate work once, it didn’t take.
Are they worse than most of the cast? It’s hard to say since the film is so subjective.
Do they respect women? As far as we know they do since they’re pretty nice to Etta and respect whatever decision she makes.
Do they care about their love interests? Well, they care enough about Etta to respect her decisions even if it doesn’t work in their favor. Still, though she is Sundance’s girl (or wife in real life), Butch may have the hots for her.
Verdict: Sure there could be worse guys than Butch and Sundance, but understand that these guys were criminals and had a gang called “The Wild Bunch” or “Hole In the Wall Gang” and they rob and shoot people.
15. The Jets and the Sharks
From: West Side Story, played by too many guys I can’t list
Are they criminally inclined? Oh, yes, they’re classified delinquents and get in knife fights to kill.
Do they get along with family or friends? I’m not sure about family but they do get along with each other and their girlfriends. Tony from the Jets takes a special shine to Maria, the Sharks gang leader’s little sister.
Are they mentally stable? Well, they’re prone to self-destruction, but it’s hard to say.
Are they abusive or physically violent? Well, they have knife fights with each other that result in deaths so yeah, they’re pretty violent.
Do they have trouble keeping a legal job? Only Tony is ever seen doing any legitimate work but he may have trouble keeping it. Most are supported by their girlfriends, at least among the Sharks.
Are they worse than most of the cast? They are most of the cast.
Do they respect women? It’s hard to say since we never see any of the Jets with their girlfriends besides Tony. Sharks may seem pretty jarring to theirs and I’m not sure if Bernardo knows Maria is seeing Tony. Not to mention, Tony eventually kills him. It’s complicated.
Do they care about their love interests? Tony and Bernardo seem to but once again, it’s complicated.
Verdict: These guys are probably bad news since they get into fights with each other and into knife fights. Best be avoided at all times.
16. Colin Smith
From: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, played by Tom Courtenay (This isn’t a Hollywood movie but it’s a very famous one in Britain so it counts.)
Is he criminally inclined? To an extent but mostly when he’s desperate for money. He does land in juvee though.
Does he get along with family or friends? Gets along with friends and siblings but his relationship with his mother has been going downhill ever since his father died.
Is he mentally stable? As mentally stable as most normal teenagers. He just wants to be a kid.
Is he abusive or physically violent? Not really violent and abusive only when he’s angry.
Does he have trouble keeping a legal job? His mother puts him under a lot of pressure to get one but he lacks motivation. Yet, he may have no trouble being a professional runner but he doesn’t want that.
Is he worse than most of the cast? Since many of his peers are juvenile delinquents like him, it’s very complicated to say.
Does he respect women? To an extent, I suppose. Doesn’t have much respect for authority though.
Does he care about his love interest? Well, he does have a girlfriend and spends time with her. We don’t know much of the extent of that relationship though.
Verdict: Colin just wants to be a normal teenager and do what he wants with his life. Though he may be a juvenile delinquent, he’s not much of a social deviant as what you’d expect from most teens living in the inner cities. He stole money because his mother wouldn’t let him in the house if he didn’t get any. In short, he kind of makes Charlie Brown look pretty fortunate.