Julianne MacLean writes romances with many different types of heroes—cowboys to Highlanders to princes. Her most recent release is Princess in Love, the second in Julianne's Royal Trilogy. Earlier this year Julianne shared her list of Top 10 Historical Movie Heroes, and today she's back to list her Top 10 Contemporary Movie Heroes. Thanks, Julianne!
Greetings, readers! I had so much fun with my recent Top 10 List of Historical Movie Heroes that I wanted to do it again, this time focusing on hotties in contemporary films. As I began to think about it, however, it became difficult to narrow it down, so I had to set some boundaries.
I decided to leave out superheroes—as hot as they may be—because it just wouldn’t be a fair contest in the alpha male category when Mr. Superhero can rescue a girl out of flying plane, while a mere mortal hottie may fall short in comparison when the plane is going down in flames. So no Superheroes this time.
I’m also leaving out the action heroes for the same reason, because with today’s digital special effects, they’re pretty much superhuman anyway. Though I might tackle those categories in a separate blog.
For now, let’s stick with romance and drama. Here are my top ten picks according to my rating system below. All of them made the cut because they have stood the test of time; these are films I have watched over and over. Being a writer, I have to give plenty of credit to the screenwriters who created these magnificent characters for some of my favorite actors.
I hope you’ll share your favorites in the comment section! I would love to hear from you because I am always certain I’m going to forget a wonderful hero who deserves to be on this list.
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; includes physical attributes+charisma).
# 10. Colin Firth—Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones’s Diary
Overall score: 22/30
Colin Firth is making the list because….well, he’s Colin Firth and he’s romantic hero royalty. He scores well in the hotness category with 9, but loses points in the Leadership/alpha male category because he was too easily led by the fiancée who was all wrong for him. But he pulls it together in the end with that kiss in the snow, right after he buys Bridget a new diary (and doesn’t get his nose all out of joint after reading a few unpleasant things she wrote about him).
# 9. Zac Efron—Charlie St. Cloud
Overall score: 23/30
Zac is making my list for a few reasons: he’s incredibly handsome (scored a 10 in the hotness category), he can sing and dance, plus I happen to think he’s a pretty good actor beneath all of that. He has great comic timing (I loved him in 17 Again), but he can also pull off a dramatic role, as we see in Charlie St. Cloud, especially the ambulance scene when he learns his brother has died.
His character lost a few points on my rating scale only because he was slow to give his full devotion to the girl, but when he did, he knocked the ball out of the park for heroism.
# 8. Patrick Swayze as Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing
Overall Score: 24/30
This charismatic film character and Patrick’s standout performance definitely stands the test of time. Patrick scores extra points for both hotness and soulfulness because of his dancing. And he stands up to Baby’s intimidating father and takes care of his friends, so he gains points in the alpha male and integrity category.
# 7. John Cusack—Jonathan Trager in Serendipity
Overall score: 25/30
Makes the list because it’s one of my favorite romance films. I not only love the characters, but the message of this magical love story: when we are meant to be with someone, fate will find a way to make it happen. Mr. Cusack scored 9 for devotion to the girl, because he never gives up and goes to great lengths to find her again, and also for soulfulness, integrity and intelligence. John Cusack remains one of my favorite actors (the eighties classic Say Anything deserves a mention here, too), and I want to know when he’s going to win his Oscar. Why has he not been nominated multiple times by now?
#6. Eric Bana—Henry in The Time Traveler’s Wife
Overall score: 26/30
I’ve been a fan of Eric Bana ever since I saw him for the first time in Black Hawk Down. I couldn’t use that film for this list because it was a supporting role, and was definitely not a romance. But he was off the charts in the heroism, alpha male category. So I found another way to get him on this list, by choosing The Time Traveler’s Wife, where he scores very well because of his enduring devotion to the girl. And there might have been a few hundred extra points for hotness and charisma.
#5. Matthew McConaughey—Palmer Joss in Contact
Overall score: 26/30
I couldn’t possibly leave Matthew McConaughey off a top ten list for hot heroes. His flirty charisma always leaves me smiling, and Contact is one of my all-time favorite films. He scored an easy 10 for hotness, and a 9 for soulfulness, spirituality, and intelligence in this role.
#4. Hugh Jackman—Leopold in Kate & Leopold
Overall score: 27/30
Hotness - an easy 10. The man is a god. When he rides into Central Park, scoops Meg Ryan up onto the back of his horse, and gallops after the purse thief….well, need I say more? And he can sing and dance, too.
#3. Ethan Hawke—Jesse in Before Sunrise/Before Sunset
Overall score: 27.5/30
I can’t explain it, but I have a very intense thing for Ethan Hawke. I don’t know what it is, but I become inexplicably rattled in the brain whenever I see him on screen. It doesn’t matter what the movie is about. Even a picture of him turns me into a deer in the headlights. I am completely fascinated by him.
So from me, he gets a 10 in the hotness category, but I also think he’s a great actor, and these unique connected films really push my hopeless romantic buttons. The first is about two young people who meet on a train and connect with each other deeply and intimately during one night in Vienna, and the second film takes place nine years later, when they finally meet again in Paris after all that time apart. Jesse just can’t stop loving Celine, their soulful connection really floats my boat.
#2. Ryan Gosling—Noah in The Notebook
Overall score – 29/30
I honestly thought Mr. Gosling was going to be number one, and if I was choosing based only on my favorite contemporary romance film, this would take top spot hands down because it has everything I love in a romance. The music and cinematography are exquisite (the opening credits alone are worth the price of the movie ticket). It has oodles of angst and heartache along the way, which make the ending that much sweeter. Noah was as devoted as any romantic hero can be. His lifelong passion and enduring love for Allie still brings tears to my eyes.
#1. Channing Tatum—John Tyree in Dear John
Overall score: 30/30
Devotion to the girl – 10/10. Leadership/alpha male qualities 10/10. Hotness factor - definitely 10/10 because not only is Channing Tatum incredibly handsome, manly, and charismatic, but he can dance, too.
I chose this film for him because of his character’s personal sacrifice at the end, where he puts the heroine’s happiness above his own and gives her a very special gift, even when he knows it means he will lose her. He was also kind, loving and devoted to his father, and he served his country with courage and dedication. When it comes to heroes and heartbreakers, this guy takes the prize.
The Wild Cards
Make Me Laugh and Steal My Heart at the End Category: Adam Sandler in 50 First Dates
Ultra Suave Category: Pierce Brosman inThe Thomas Crown Affair
Most Underrated Hottie: Ed Harris in The Abyss
Flawed Hottie in a brother/sister role: Chris Pine in People Like Us
Mind-blowing Hottie who needs to do more contemporary romantic roles: Henry Cavill
Humorous Hottie in a category all his own: Hugh Grant in Music and Lyrics, Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral
Now for the Honorable Mention list. This is where you tell me who I missed, or who I need to pay closer attention to. Who is your favorite romance hero from the movies? (And let’s stick to the contemporaries. If you want to talk about historical heroes, I blogged about them here.)
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.