A big part of most of our lives are the characters that we invest our time into on the small and large screens. TV and movie characters become part of our worlds when we invest as much time into them as we do. So it’s likely that we notice the nuances and subtle things that make a character’s ensemble complete. Whether it’s Jane’s beanie hat from Firefly, Marty McFly’s self lacing shoes from Back to the Future 2, or the 4th Doctor (Tom Baker)’s 12 foot colorful scarf; we notice and love the extra details. Tattoos are an important way of adding something extremely noticeable and memorable to a TV/Movie character and today I’m going to give my Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Most Memorable TV/Movie Tattoos.
10. Edward Norton as Derek Vinyard in American History X: There is nothing more shocking than that first image of a shirtless Edward Norton proudly bowing his chest to display the swastika tattoo on his chest. The Academy Award nominated performance by Edward Norton is just as impactful as the swastika on his chest is offensive.
9. Ralph Fiennes as Francis Dolarhyde in Red Dragon: I remember watching Silence of the Lambs as a teenager and the movie’s intense storyline fueled a passion to become a detective. I of course didn’t do that because I didn’t particularly want to get shot at or see dead bodies; but that didn’t change the fact that I was enthralled with a good detective/slasher/thriller movie. Red Dragon came along in 2002 but was a prequel to the 1991 Silence of the Lambs. Ralph Fiennes character Dolarhyde is obsessed with William Blake’s famous paintings and tattoos a melding of Blake’s work. The psychologically thrilling movie is as intense as Dolarhyde’s massive back tattoo.
8. George Clooney as Seth Gecko in From Dusk Till Dawn: George Clooney’s character Seth Gecko in 1996’s From Dusk Till Dawn came about at the perfect time because tribal was literally all the rage. I remember my friends in high school rushing out to get tribal tattoos. I remember we were drawing and designing them in our high school art class. It was huge…just as huge as Gecko’s from ear to neck tribal tattoo. The movie’s main characters, Gecko and his out-of-control brother, Richard, are on the run bank robbers who hide out in a former minister’s RV as they venture into Mexico; but the topless bar that they hole up in turns out to be the home for a group of vampires. Sounds as crazy as a giant tribal tattoo on George Clooney; but the mesh up of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino and the giant tribal tattoo are pretty impressive.
7. Guy Pearce as Leonard in Memento: I was in college when I first saw the psychological thriller, Memento, that was written and directed by Christopher Nolan. The movie centers around a man who suffers from short-term memory loss (due to an accident) and must tattoo himself with memorable words and phrases to help track down the man who raped and murdered his wife. The movie’s amazing story line and beautifully arched story telling process are intensified by the character’s tattoos.
6. Wentworth Miller as Michael Scofield in Prison Break. The TV prison drama follows Michael Scofield; who attempts to break his brother out of prison. His completely tattooed torso are riddled with hidden escape routes and information that he and his brother will use to break out of the Fox River prison.
5. Ray Parks as Darth Maul in Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace: Not since Boba Fett has a character with such a short amount of on screen time had such a large amount of cultural influence. Ray Park’s portrayal of the Sith apprentice Darth Maul was cut short by his on screen death but no one can deny that it was memorable. Part of what made Darth Maul so empowering was his head full of sharp, short horns, red face and black tribal tattoos. The double-light saber wielding Sith Lord’s painfully received his second set of tattoos from his Sith master Darth Sidious to prove his devotion to the Dark Side (after he was stripped of the black portions of his red and black Nightbrother tattoo markings that he received from his mother in a Dathomirian ritual). This Sith Lord’s scowling face will forever be entrenched in the minds of Star Wars fans…partially thanks to those unforgettable tribal tattoos.
4. Dave Bautista as Drax in the Guardians of the Galaxy: The already heavily tattooed former professional wrestler took on the roll of the brutal yet emotional Drax The Destroyer; Drax’s 3D-esque tattoos leapt off the screen. The makeup took hours to do during every shoot but the visual effect was well worth it. The tattoos (which Drax explained are a showcase of the good and bad experiences of his life) make a statement that adds to the already bad-ass appearance of Bautista.
3. Charlie Hunnam as Jackson Nathaniel Teller aka Jax Teller in the TV series Sons of Anarchy: The Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club’s Redwood Original mother chapter based in Charming, California rumbled their way into our homes in 2008. The heavily tattooed protagonist, Jax Teller, ends up as the MC’s President but that comes at a pricey cost. The death of many of his loved ones is just as visible on his face as his tattoos are on his skin. The giant grim reaper emblem and many others are proudly worn on his skin.
2. Popeye the Sailor: The cartoon character seems to have been around forever but the one-eyed, corncob pipe smoking sailor was inked into existence in a comic strip back in 1929. The spinach eating is among the greatest cartoon characters of all time and has and will always be one of my favorites. One unmistakeable feature of our favorite character is Popeye’s huge muscular forearms that are accented by his matching anchor tattoos.
- Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery as Murphy and Conner McManus in The Boondock Saints: In 2002, (I was looking through the DVDs as I am a movie buff) I came across a movie entitled “The Boondock Saints”. I bought it on a whim because the premise sounded interesting and I immediately fell in love with the movie. The gritty crime movie showcased two fraternal twins who think that they are called by God to cleanse Boston of evil with vigilante justice. The “Saints” become heroes to some and enemies to others. The brother’s expression of their faith does not stop at their yearning to cleanse the streets of filth but to the rosary that they wear around their neck and the religiously themed tattoos that adorn their bodies. The movie is as impressive and memorable as the inked art that they wear upon their bodies.
Honorable mentions: Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow in The Pirates of the Caribbean, Matthew McConaughey as Van Zan in Reign of Fire, “Dude/Sweet” tattoos from Dude, Where’s My Car?, Robert De Niro as Max Cady in Cape Fear, Death Eater tattoo from Harry Potter
American History X theatrical release poster by and attributed to Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4793280
Red Dragon tattoo image by and attributed to Universal, Fair Use.
From Dusk Till Dawn Image by and attributed to Source, Fair Use.
Leonard from Memento Image by and attributed to Source, Fair Use.
Michael Scofield from Prison Break Image by and attributed to Source, Fair Use.
Darth Maul Cosplayer image by and attributed to Christopher Brown from Houston, United States – Comic Con 2013 – Darth Maul cosplayer, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42563049
Drax the Destroyer from Guardians of the Galaxy image by and attributed to Source, Fair Use.
Jax Teller promotional Image by and accredited to user queenbuffy, sonsofanchry.wikia.com/wiki/Jackson_%27Jax%27_Teller?file=Jax-Teller-sons-of-anarchy-17671595-500-306.jpg
Popeye comic (Cover of Bud Sagendorf’s Popeye #50) by and attributed to Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3035220
Boondock Saints images by and attributed to Source, Fair Use.