In case the tiara hasn’t conveyed it, I’m not exactly the sporty type.In fact, the extent of my non-sportiness was the subject of my story that appeared in Stymie Journal of Sports and Literature and ESPN the Magazine for sporty types who needed a good laugh.Let me quote a close friend upon learning of its inclusion in ESPN in particular:“…. What?”Indeed. My name in its pages was so miraculous, I framed the cover featuring Roger Federer.He plays tennis. (According to Wikipedia.)

Nonetheless, despite my history of catching baseballs with my forehead (and I’m talking grounders), I have been sporty of late.Specifically, my toddler has recently decided that I must walk all around our neighborhood while pulling her in a little red wagon.That I consider walking with a wagon a sport really says it all, doesn’t it? Let me quote my big sister: “I’m so proud of you for being outdoors!”

But walking is really hard. So for extra motivation I came up with a playlist to listen to as I walk that conjures more strutting in skinny black ties and less schlepping of a wagon crammed with stuffed animals and a toddler leaving a trail of Apple Jacks.And because my list is short and the walking is oh so endless (mon dieu!), I’m hoping you’ll be so kind as to add to my playlist.

Movie: Reservoir Dogs

Song: “Little Green Bag” by George Baker Selection

You know what I’m doing right now?My Snoopy happy dance.That’s how excited I am to present to you the Picasso of badass walking right from the get go. Love him or hate him, you have to admit the opening title sequence to Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs makes walking look like the most badass activity you could possibly engage in.

Movie:In the Name of the Father

Song:“Dedicated Follower of Fashion” by The Kinks

Okay, this movie may not be known for badassery, but here’s a pimped out Daniel Day Lewis walking in a Sherpa rug.Case closed.

Movie:The Outsiders

Song: “Gloria” by Them

Someday, maybe I’ll tell you more about my worrisome, youthful Outsiders obsession, but today I’ll just tell you that leather jackets were made for badass walking.

Movie: Mean Girls

Song: “Pass That Dutch” by Missy Elliott

You know what’s badass?Slow-motion walking.In a hallway.In a teen movie.I almost put Edward’s slow-mo walk from Twilight in here, but he can’t possible out-sparkle the Plastics.

Oh, what the hell.

Movie: Twilight: New Moon

Song: “Monsters” by Hurricane Bells

Movie: Kill Bill, Vol. 1

Song: “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” by Tomoyasu Hotei

I’ve long thought that the only thing missing from Reservoir Dogs was some badass walking women.I mean, couldn’t there have been a Ms. Burnt Sienna or something in there somewhere?Cutting off ears and such with the swiftness of any of the boys?But alas there is now O-Ren Ishii and her Crazy 88s of Kill Bill walking en masse to sort of make up for it.That look on Lucy Liu’s face, anyway, says, “Bad.Ass.”



Song: “Hard Times” by Baby Huey and the Baby Sitters

Jean Claude Van Damme doesn’t just walk.He kicks ass and walks.Not even a ninja with a flame thrower can get in the way of Van Damme and his badass walking.

Movie: Dazed and Confused

Song: “Hurricane” by Bob Dylan

If I have to narrow it down to one reason why I can’t take Matthew McConaughey seriously, I might say it’s because I will forever see him as the cigarettes-rolled-up-in-his-sleeve, tight-pants-wearing Wooderson drawling, “I lurrrv the red heads” in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused.He is Wooderson to me, and Wooderson is as skeezy as his chin fuzz. Even so, here’s Wooderson’s iconic slithering strut parting the doors of the Emporium pool hall.

Movie: Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion

Song: “Blood and Roses” by The Smithereens

This one is a mere blip, if that, in the annals of cinematic badass walking, but, hey, short walks are okay by me.It’s the scene in which Janeane Garofalo as Heather Mooney hustles outdoors to smoke a cigarette behind her high school.That she does so to the Smithereens makes it one brief, badass hustle.

Movie: Jackie Brown

Song:“Across 110th Street” by Bobbie Womack

I tried to limit myself to just two Tarantino badass walking scenes (how did anyone manage to badass walk anywhere before Tarantino came along?), but this is just precisely my kind of badass walking.It’s Pam Grier’s Jackie Brown in the opening scene kicking off her badass walking by standing on a conveyer belt for most of the sequence.“Walking” without walking.Booyah!That’s what I’m talking about.Jetson’s badass walking.

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TNB Arts and Culture Editor CYNTHIA HAWKINS teaches creative writing at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Most of what she thinks she knows comes from movies, including how to tango, how to take someone down with a ballpoint pen, how to curse in French, and how to catch a moving train. Her work, on movies and otherwise, has appeared in literary journals and magazines such as ESPN the Magazine, Parent:Wise Magazine, The Good Men Project, New World Writing, Strange Horizons, and numerous alternative weeklies and anthologies. You can find Cynthia on Twitter and at cynthiahawkins.net.

61 responses to “The Playlist of Cinematic 
Badass Walking”

  1. Joe Daly says:


    You’ve outdone yourself this time. A vibrant, bass-thumping reminder of why I love TNB. The collision of music and movies is a galaxy unto itself, and to mine such a rich and specific vein of literary gold as this is brilliant.

    Walking montages!

    Reservoir Dogs certainly is the most iconic, itself inspiring homages and spoofs. These other ones were a blast as well- I haven’t seen them all, so hopefully I can find a couple on YouTube.

    Well done, Ms. Hawkins. Well fucking done.

    • I am so happy to have earned a “well fucking done,” hooray! Thanks, JD!

      • I dig this piece, Cynthia. Lots of good choices. I think the Reservoir Dogs one itself is especially interesting. As Joe points out, it inspired many homages. But that scene was lifted wholesale out of Ringo Lam’s City on Fire. Which came out 5 years before Dogs. So is it Badass or theft? I guess it depends on your general demeanor. In fact, about 50% of the plot of Dogs is exactly the same as COF, and many shots are recreated verbatim. There’s even a scene in City on Fire where they keep saying “He Killed Bill! He Killed Bill!” Also, the “Mr. Pink, Mr. Brown” naming device was stolen outright from the original Taking of Pelham 1,2,3.

        I still think Tarantino brought many great and original elements to Reservoir Dogs, and it’s a much better movie than City on Fire. But it’s still a souped up body on someone else’s chassis.

        Anyway, here’s my favorite badass walking shot of all time. Even though it’s really running. Supposedly, they didn’t ask permission to shoot this, just showed up in the Louvre and let it run until they were kicked out. Rebellion is relative.


        • Gloria says:

          The gal in that clip would’ve been wise to wear more durable shoes.

        • That’s a great, great scene, Sean. Love it. For all the crap I remember, I can’t remember what film payed homage to that scene not long ago. Was it The Dreamers? It’s going to keep me up all night trying to remember ….

          So, I wrote about Tarantino once for something else and called him someone who picks and chooses from a buffet of past films and the only reason he gets away with it is because of how he arranges it all on the tray. Maybe this is just what happens when hardcore movie geeks from behind the video-rental counter get to direct, heh.

        • Sean Beaudoin says:

          Yeah, it was from The Dreamers, which I thought was a pale approximation in many other ways as well. I agree that QT has a geek-genius for clever appropriation. He’s also just plain brilliant with dialog, in a way that seems entirely his own.

          I was driving home and I realized what the most badass walk of all time may well be–there’s a scene in the original Cape Fear in which Gregory Peck hires some toughs to beat up Robert Mitchum. They get him near a wharf on the beach. It’s three against one. Mitchum takes his licks but then beats up two of the guys. The third guy is standing there, holding a knife. Mitchum smiles. The look of terror on the guy’s face is priceless, as Mitchum takes his time swaggering towards him. Cut.

          I’d rather have three dozen Tim Roths or Harvey Keitels walking toward me than one Mitchum. I haven’t seen that movie in thirty years, but have never forgotten that shot.

        • Mitchum in Cape Fear! Yes!

          Have you ever noticed how Tim Roth sounds like Grover when shot in the gut in Reservoir Dogs? Just like Grover. I can’t be afraid of him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaZ8WR2DdjQ

  2. jmblaine says:

    I was watching Smokey & the Bandit III
    this weekend and thinking of Jerry Reed
    after Big and Little Enis decide that Burt Reynolds
    was too much of an egomaniac and name him the new Bandit –
    he did a rather enthusiastic jig to a rousing banjo number.

    But my favorite
    is Snake Plisken
    after he defeats the Duke’s

    That eye-patch limp
    while lighting a cigarillo.

    • Ah, the Smokey & the Bandit movies. I haven’t seen those since I was a kid! Being that I live in the south, I’m surprised I don’t hear more rousing banjo numbers while I’m out walking.

  3. I tend to like it when characters either pray, sigh, sob, weep, quiver, shrug resigned, before going out to win or die. It really conveys the giant obstacles or the horrible enemy of a better caliber. I think it is more bad assed to be scared and yet, face the enemy even though the hero know he’s gonna lose. Like Rocky praying before facing Apollo Creed in Rocky, Luke Skywalker facing Darth Vadar before completing Jedi training in Empire Strike Back, or the father in The Road.

    They tend to have more impact on me than someone doing a Jesus Christ pose with two handguns and an arrogant sneer on his face like Ice T in Ghost of Mars. If you ever do that in real life, you would most likely shoot your teammate either side of you. People who walk like this are the kind of the people who will lead the way in getting the rest of us killed.

    Just once I would like to see the hero gets the crap scared out of him, takes a deep breath, coolly removes his or her pants, twirls the dirty underwear around and then whip it toward the enemy, distracting him and fouling him before shrieking wildy and emptying a gun at the enemy. That would be enough to make a grown man like me giggle if I ever see that.

  4. Ben Loory says:

    end of the wild bunch, yo. only thing better than just walking is walking toward your own death.

  5. Gregory Messina says:

    How on earth do you remember this scenes and the songs that go with them so clearly? I’m très impressed.

    • I’ll have you know that my mind is a storehouse of worthless knowledge.

      • Irene Zion says:


        I’m with Gregory here. I have no idea how you remember the scene in which a song is played. When I am in a really good movie, I inhabit the movie so that the music is part and parcel to the scene so completely that I don’t hear it separately. The one exception is Dylan. I always notice a Dylan song in a movie, whether he is singing himself or someone else is singing his lyrics.

        • Irene, I remember you telling me that once, and when I put Dylan on here for the Dazed and Confused clip I thought, “Oh, Irene’s going to love this one!” 🙂

        • Irene Zion says:


          I knew I shouldn’t comment when I’m so comprehensively jet-lagged. I totally forgot that we had that exchange until you mentioned it. (I did love that clip!)

  6. James D. Irwin says:

    That bit is the best part of Reservoir Dogs.

    But the Roger Federer line was my favourite in this.

    Also: how about every single barrel sequence in the Bond films? It’s not much walking, but it IS still walking…

  7. SAA says:

    The entire House of Blues Leaves segment in Kill Bill is like my favorite ever. I could watch that everyday. Also, I always really got off on the part in Lethal Weapon where they walk out of the night club after being tortured by the bad guys.

    • SAA says:

      I just thought of this, the conveyor belt thing in Jackie Brown really reminded me of something Spike Lee would do, and I’ve always wondered if Tarantino did that intentionally, given their history (Please excuse my movie geekery).

      • Movie geekery always welcome here. Ooh, wouldn’t that be interesting if it was?

        We could probably make subcategories of all the badass walking in action films alone, including exit scenes, entrance scenes, walking over cars scenes, and, of course, walking away from explosions scenes.

  8. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    Cynthia, you are such a lady. J’adore ce que tu dis mon dieu! A walking compilation playlist, this I will have to ponder. I’m feelin’ some Maceo Parker and a pair of blue suede shoes…

    • Merci! And that’s as far into a French conversation as I can get. Unless you want me to curse at you.

      Ah, I think I can imagine badass Lisa Rae walking along to Maceo Parker. Now you have me thinking of what my walking and/or movie entrance song might be …. productivity now out the window for the day ….

  9. Matt says:

    Good list, but I cannot believe you left off the Propellor track as Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss walk/punch/kick/gunfight/do acrobatics through the extended lobby in the third act of The Matrix. Just imagine how pumped you’d get for your walk with THAT bit of music on the list. Your daughter would get the wagon ride of her life!

    • Ooh, yeah, that’s a good one! Going on my list. You’ll be glad to know the wagon has a seat belt. This’ll give me a chance to test out its efficacy. For some reason I was thinking that scene took place to the musical score, but you are absolutely right. Man, I need to see The Matrix again. I loved that movie! The follow-ups, not so much.

  10. Seth Pollins says:

    You’re funny, Cynthia. And you’re so right, that Reservoir Dogs clip is the “Picasso of badass walking.” I’m thinking Darth Vader, too. Whenever he walks anywhere they play that evil “Imperial March” theme–that’s pretty badass.

    Did you really have to look up Roger Federer?

    Next, you might try running. I can suggest a few for that playlist.

    • Thanks Seth! Oh, I’m adding the “Imperial March” to my playlist right now. Of course! You can’t get any badder than walking on the dark side, eh?

      “Did you really have to look up Roger Federer?” … No?

      I just told my husband you suggested I try running. He laughed. I think because he’s envisioning the dainty hands.

  11. Gloria says:

    How in god’s name did you miss this one?


    Actually, there’re bound to be entire montages you could do of Travolta walking.

    • Gloria says:

      Actually, this is the one I meant to link to:


      He lost his pizazz in the second film.

      • Oh, is that Travolta’s SNF walk? I don’t even wanna look. Okay, I’ll look. But I don’t like that movie! You’d think I would because of the kitsch factor. Funnily enough, my little sister has my parent’s eight track cassette of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack framed in a shadow box.

        • Gloria says:

          It’s totally Travolta’s SNF walk. You may not like it, but might you concede that it smacks of the baddest of the bad ass?

        • Greg Olear says:

          That was gonna be my comment: glad to see Wooderson included, but no Travolta? Badass walks start and stop with SNF, no?

          Also, did you see after the Bin Laden thing, on Colbert, they showed the clip of Obama walking to the podium and sort of did the Reservoir Dogs thing to make him seem even more badass?

        • Oh, okay *grumbling* I concede *hrmph*.

          I didn’t see that Colbert clip, Greg. I am going to scour the interwebs for it now. That I wanna see!

  12. If you look closely, you’ll see the guy with the cigarette is Commodore Norrington from the Pirates of the Caribbean flicks, before he was a movie star:


    • Oh, I like that guy! He was on a short-lived television series here. Funny clip. I really do want to buy myself the suit and tie and sunglasses and walk around everywhere. And with a mask, voila, I’d be all Crazy 88.

  13. I specifially bought a stroller with iPod capabilities and built-in speakers when my son was a baby so I could at least have music during long, boring walks, but you’ve taken it to a new level here. Love it.

    Do you see the person Bigfooting around in the trees behind Robert Pattinson? I wonder if that pissed off the director. Pulled me right out of the photo/scene, wondering who is trying to hide in the blurred background.

    This piece made me crave Apple Jacks. I don’t think I’ve had those since I was a kid. Mmmm.

    Oh, Cynthia. This was so much fun. Thanks. (:

    • I’m surprised you were able to notice anything in that photo besides Edward’s creepy “my topaz eyes could burn holes through you” glare of maddeningly intense love.

      No, no, no, thank you Tawni!

    • Richard Cox says:

      There are strollers with iPod connectivity and built-in speakers?? Are you joking? Hahahahahaha.

      • I’m serious! I ran my iPod through my stroller speakers. You have to be careful not to blast your baby’s eardrums, though. Because that would just be mean. And it’s totally not cool to be mean to babies.

  14. Becky Palapala says:

    Though I think Wooderson was a gem of a character, I can see how it might ruin McConaughey for a gal going forward.

    I, for one, often forget that he was even in Dazed & Confused. Since I also enjoy his presence (mostly his physical presence) in other films, the two must be related.

    Compartmentalization must be the trick. Just now, while thinking of him in Dazed in Confused, I couldn’t even think of any other movies he was in. Wooderson has been immaculately isolated–quarantined–in my consciousness.

    There should be a badass subcategory for endearingly neurotic badasses.

    Like Martin Blank moving effortlessly through Debbie & Daddy Newberry’s house, securing perimeters, capping bad guys and asking for Debbie’s hand in marriage all at once.

    Am I the only person who thinks Martin Blank is a badass?

    • No one does endearingly neurotic (badass or otherwise) like John Cusack. I say yes, yes, yes, Martin Blank counts!

      I need to work on my compartmentalization skills. It could really come in handy for, say, Colin Firth in Mama Mia. I need to put that image where I’ll never find it again.

  15. Zara Potts says:

    Have to concur with Greg and Gloria.. JOHN TRAVOLTA in Saturday Night Fever??? NOTHING BETTER!!!! Oh, I so want to walk like that.

  16. Richard Cox says:

    Twilight. Edward. Twilight. Edward. Twilight. Edward. Jacob. Twilight. Edward. Twilight. Edward. Twilight. Edward. Twilight. Edward. Twilight. Edward. Twilight. Edward. Jacob.

    Twilight. Edward. Twilight. Edward. Twilight. Edward. Jacob. Twilight. Edward. Twilight. Edward. Twilight. Edward. Jacob. Twiiiiiiiliiiiiiight!!!!11!1!

    Is that what it sounds like inside a girl’s head?

    • Twilight. Edward. Twilight. Edward. Edward. Twilight. I’m sorry, you were saying … what?

      At the very least, add a “Justin Bieber” and it’s the inside of a nine-year-old’s head.

      Hi Richard!

      • Richard Cox says:

        Hi Cynthia!

        Oh, I finally thought of a walk. Well, two: The methodical, I’m-coming-to-get-you walks of the original Terminator and his newer, liquid metal friend. Pow!

        (Sorry, I hadn’t any dinner earlier and my brain chemicals were non-responsive.)

        Also, love this post. Interesting and quirky.

        P.P.S. I’ve been remiss about a certain assignment, but never fear, I am back at it again. And chuckling often, as it happens. 🙂

        • Twilight is what happens when your brain chemicals are non-responsive.

          Those are great instances! I think in the piece Simon and I did I discussed how very anxious the Terminator films make me, and that walk (in both cases) is the reason. And it’s almost just like Edward’s. The stalker walk.

          Ah, no worries about your certain assignment. I mean … you’ve been chasing tornadoes!

  17. Gloria says:

    OH! OH! I have one! I have it!


    Best walking into a bar scene ever – in the whole history of cinema.

    I have no idea why it’s in Spanish.

    • Good work, G! PTA’s the bomb. I love how the camera sweeps around in this scene. Pero, la pregunta esta y por que no Espanol? (That’s probably awful Spanish, but I try.)

  18. Erika Rae says:

    Oh man – this may be my favorite playlist EVER. Badass Walking.

    “You know what’s badass? Slow-motion walking. In a hallway. In a teen movie.”

    I’ll be giggling all day.

  19. Thomas says:

    This excellent post got me thinking. What an interesting idea. Hmmm….how about the tyrannosaur in Jurassic Park? First, so plodding and slow and scary, and then more of a run at the jeep, even more frightening?


    • And now you have me thinking about all of the non-human bad-ass walkers. I say, yes, the Jurassic Park t-rex most certainly belongs on this list. “You think they’ll have that on the tour?!” Thanks Thomas!

  20. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    See, I step away for awhile and miss all kinds of fun pieces, like this one. An excellent list you’ve got here.

    The Jackie Brown scene is always amazing to me because really there’s very little happening. Like you said she’s not even really moving for most of it, yet the whole moment teems with a lot, helped I think by what has to be Tarantino’s acknowledgement of the backstory of Pam Grier as a supposed washed-up actress, heading into the limelight again.

    Also, I’m a little mad at myself I only just now realized that this scene is lifted from The Graduate, and I’d probably be hard-pressed to say which stripe of badass is better.

    • And I step away for awhile and miss a fun comment, like this one! Thanks Nathaniel! I really like that as part of the context now that you mention it, that opening scene as Grier reintroduced. And of course it’s aided by the Womack song so perfectly. The Graduate had that going for it too, that amazingly apt soundtrack. One of my favorites.

  21. Jon says:

    Some 15 years after Dazed and Confused, McConaughey reprised his Wooderson character for a music video; what I think is a fantastic “bad ass walking” song:

    “Synthesizers” by Butch Walker


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