Julianne MacLean writes romances featuring heroes ranging from cowboys to Highlanders to princes, and she has two exciting new releases: the Pembroke Palace novella Married by Midnight (out now) and book 2 in the Royal Trilogy, Princess in Love (available October 30). Such an expert has to have a fantastic list of sources for her heroes, right? So today we’re thrilled to welcome Julianne to share her list of Top 10 Historical Movie Heroes. Thanks, Julianne!
If you’re a lover of historical romance like I am, you probably have a running list in your head of your all-time favorite heroes from the movies. If pressed, you might find it difficult to narrow it down to just ten, not to mention ranking your hotties in order of their awesomeness. How does one decide such a thing?
Let’s face it, hero worship is subjective, but as a former accountant, I love hard data, so I decided to create my own ranking system. Feel free to use it yourself to rank your own list of dreamboats and see how they score.
Julianne’s Rating System
On a scale of 1-10, how does Mr. Hero score in the following categories?
A. Devotion to the Girl
B. Leadership Abilities (i.e. how strong of an alpha male is he?). Also consider his integrity, intelligence, and soulfulness.
C. Hotness Factor (utterly subjective on all fronts).
Based on this simple algorithm, here is my personal top ten list:
# 10. Damien Lewis – Maj. Richard Winters in Band of Brothers
Overall score: 20/30
Mr. Lewis scored a perfect 10 in the heroism, soulfulness, leadership category. This guy was a shining star. Watch the series and you will fall in love and want to marry him. He lost marks in the devotion to the girl category, but only because it’s a World War II miniseries and there was no girl. But I simply couldn’t leave him out. In the subjective hotness category I rate Damien a 10 because I was completely enraptured by his heroic screen presence and I desperately wanted him to make this list. After Band of Brothers, I was compelled to see every one of his performances.
# 9. Ioan Gruffuld – Horatio in Horatio Hornblower
Overall score: 21/30
He scored high for intelligence, integrity and leadership abilities, but lost some traction in the alpha male component because he was so youthful and innocent in the opening episodes. He scored only 4 for devotion to the girl, because he was so committed to his naval duties that he left his wife waving at him from the dock and wasn’t the least bit sorry to be on his way. He gains extra points, however, for the last few rushed minutes of the final episode when he seemed pleased to be a father, but most of his hotness happens on the high seas when we watch him transform from a seasick young boy to the clever, daring, and courageous captain of a British naval ship.
# 8. Henry Cavill as Charles Brandon in The Tudors
Overall Score: 24/30
For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you know I’m a Henry girl. He hits the ball out of the park in the hotness category (scored 12 out of a possible 10, and if you’re not sure why, I recommend Season One, episode four, when he escorts the king’s sister to Portugal, and all sorts of lusty stuff happens on the ship). Seriously, this man is off the charts, and if this were about hotness alone, he’d be at the top of my list, but as a guest of Heroes & Heartbreakers, I am looking for the perfect hero, so alas, there is more to consider….
In The Tudors, the character of Charles Brandon was unfaithful to his wife after marriage, so he lost points there. In the integrity category, he did some dastardly things in a blind duty to his king, so he fell short of the mark, even though I loved how tortured he became afterward. He gets bonus points for the furrowed brow.
# 7. Richard Armitage – John Thornton in North and South
Overall score: 24.5/30
This BBC miniseries had me at hello. In the romance department, you’ll notice many parallels with Pride and Prejudice. Thornton is a gruff mill-owner during the industrial revolution in England, while the heroine is the daughter of a country parson who views him as vulgar and uneducated. He never apologizes for his class, and over time proves to her that he has the heart and soul of a true gentleman. If you haven’t seen this historical series, go now my friend—straight to the video store—and immerse yourself in a beautiful romance. I must warn you, however, that Mr. Armitage can cause a bit of an obsession. Be careful not to become distracted at work.
Tie for #6. Liam Neeson – Rob Roy MacGregor in Rob Roy
Overall score: 26/30
Highlander alert. Bonus points awarded for the kilt and accent. He lost a point, however, in the devotion to the girl category because he didn’t listen to his wife’s advice or warnings, and things went very badly for them both because of that. Hotness: 7. In the alpha male/leadership/integrity category, he scores a perfect 10.
Tie for #6. Mel Gibson – William Wallace in Braveheart
Overall score: 26/30
He gets 10/10 for devotion to the girl. He started a war for her, after all. (Yeah, I know…he was fighting for freedom, not the girl, but he carried her cloth with him until the day he died.) Also gets 10/10 for leadership because he triumphed over the English in what seemed an impossible feat, and yay for the underdog. In the hotness category, I gave him a 6, but that’s just subjective. I tried to leave his personal life out of it. I liked him in his kilt and I loved him in Mad Max, Gallipoli, and The Patriot. And I simply loved the film.
#5. Kevin Costner - Lt. John Dunbar in Dances With Wolves
Overall score – 27/30
I get teary just thinking about this beautiful film. Mr. Costner gets 10/10 for soulfulness (the message is for peace, not war, and becoming one with nature and respecting our fellow man, even those who are different, which is why this film, in all its quiet moments, outranks Braveheart in my books for the perfect hero). Soulfulness went a long way for him here, and he scored 8/10 on hotness for that reason. For me, it was hotness of the heart. I didn’t care how buff he was.
#4. Leonardo DiCaprio– Jack Dawson in Titanic
Overall score: 28/30
He let Rose have the raft and he died for her. That’s selfless love, people. And do you remember the scene where he ripped the bench off the floor and used it as a battering ram to break through the gate that was keeping all the lower class passengers trapped down in steerage? Yup. That was darn heroic. In the hotness factor, he didn’t get top marks from me only because he was young and clearly I tend to go for more mature looking, dark and broody types. But again, that’s subjective. My daughter would have given him the #1 spot in a heartbeat, so I put buffness aside again and gave some weight to her opinions here in the hotness category, because she’s my offspring, and I thought it might be proper to give some voice to a slightly younger demographic.
#3. Andy Whitfield – Spartacus in Spartacus: Blood and Sand
Overall score: 30/30
Devotion to the girl – 10/10. Leadership/alpha male qualities 10/10. Hotness factor 10/10. This miniseries was full of testosterone, sex, blood and gore, and justice for the underdog. It was gritty and edgy, and Andy Whitfield was a strapping, gorgeous, passionate, compelling and unyielding gladiator. Sadly this talented actor was taken from us last year when he lost his battle with cancer, which still leaves me deeply saddened for his family and for all the rest of us who lost an incredible talent. Rest in peace, beautiful hero. You will be missed.
#2 - Russell Crowe – Maximus in Gladiator
Overall score: 30.5/30
He gets 10/10 for devotion to the girl, 10/10 for leadership/alpha male abilities. Remember when he mounted the horse in the coliseum and shouted “Form column!” to the other gladiators and spontaneously led them to victory? I thought I was going to fall out of my chair with my legs in the air. As for hotness…ahem. Extra points for charisma and acting chops. Maybe it’s that deep, quiet, raspy voice. Maybe it’s the big hands or the confident way he carries himself. Did you see 3:10 to Yuma? It’s my favorite western of all time. How about Master and Commander? There wasn’t any romance in that movie, but who needs a girl when Russell Crowe is shouting “All hands to windward!” on the deck of a British navy ship. The title says it all. Now I’m feeling a bit wobbly in the knees. He gets an extra half point bonus for those other performances, which snags the number two spot for him in Gladiator.
#1: Gerard Butler – King Leonidas in 300
Overall score: 31/30
In 300, this rugged Scot is buff and bare-chested most of the time. He doesn’t disguise his delicious accent in the film. He has hot sex with his wife. He leads the Spartan army into battle and holds his own until the bitter end, and says things like: “This is where we fight! This is where they die!” When the enemy demands that his army lay down their weapons, he says, “Come and get them!”
He’s courageous and cheeky, has a deep, raunchy, commanding voice, and he looks darn good in that red cape and not much else. When it comes to jaw-dropping alpha-male heroes, it doesn’t get much better than this.
The extra point was awarded on the basis of my obsession with this man after watching Phantom of the Opera. The hot flashes lasted for weeks, and he inspired me to switch historical settings and write a Highlander trilogy. For that, Gerard Butler earns the number one spot.
The Wild Cards
Villain category: Jason Isaacs in The Patriot
Make Me Laugh Category: Mike Myers in Austen Powers
Most Underrated Hottie: Rufus Sewell in Middlemarch
Classiest Hero: Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice
Now for the Honorable Mention list. Tell me—who did I neglect? Please pipe in here to add your favorites and I’ll probably kick myself for not including them. Or maybe you’ll introduce me to a new obsession. That’s always fun.
Julianne MacLean is a USA Today bestselling author of over 15 historical romances, including The Highlander Trilogy with St. Martin’s Press and her popular Pembroke Palace series with Avon/Harper Collins. She is a three-time RITA finalist, and lives in Nova Scotia with her husband, daughter and puppy-dog, Molly.