After watching the trailer for Aeon Flux, one thing’s for sure— Charlize Theron is ready to be pretty again. Really, really, super, almost obnoxiously, OK we get it! pretty again.
But since de-glamming herself to almost punishing degrees in Monster and donning that ugly haircut and headwear in the ridiculous North Country (where she still looked, uh, pretty), I can understand why. Just as I'm not going to question Theron’s range anytime soon, I'm not going to forget she’s a movie star either.
Which is fine with me. I like movie stars. But there’s more to a star than finely-chiseled features and perfectly-waxed brows—there’s charisma and talent and all those things a set of perfect lips can’t convey. Though as proven by the list below (five women and five men, in no particular order), when talented, a nice pucker certainly doesn’t hurt.
But being an avid old movie watcher this is an odd list for me. For someone who finds the likes of John Garfield, Robert Mitchum, young Lawrence Tierney, Lee Marvin and Warren Oates the quintessence of manhood, seeing any rugged or weird eroticism in mainstream Hollywood stars proves challenging. I think Mickey Rourke and Patrick Warburton are hot. I, to many people's suprise, find Rip Torn "do-able" and then some (watch his small part in Baby Doll and his nasty turn in Sweet Bird of Youth and you'll see). I had a sex dream about Gene Hackman. As for women, there are so many, the best are almost all retired--Brigitte Bardot, Anna Karina, Faye Dunaway, hell, even Lily Tomlin at times (!).
But I never, ever rule out the current. So here's my take on some of cinema's finest and finest looking. It's not a complete list and it's certainly not alternative (hence, the delicious girls from My Summer of Love are woefully missing) but it's how I feel about those we find good looking. All except for Billy Bob Thornton. I couldn't let that one go.
10. Angelina Jolie
What can one say about Ms. Jolie that hasn’t already been waxed rhapsodic in every corner of the world? When you’ve got US Weekly and Maxim as well as the United Nations and Colin Powell singing your praises, you’re pretty much the most-wanted woman on the planet.
With her size XX large lips, willowy, yet healthy frame, long dark hair, intense blue eyes and the kind of bone structure that allows supermodels lucrative, million dollar contracts, she’s always been eye-poppingly gorgeous. Almost to a fault. Because that’s Jolie's problem—I think.
Sure, she has that well-deserved Academy Award (for Girl Interrupted) and she’s roughed her edges with a dangerous, so-called "punk" girl image complete with unique neckwear (as in, preferring a vial of Billy Bob Thornton’s blood over some trinket from Tiffany’s--which I always thought was charming). And then there’s the committed mother of adopted children and bonafide philanthropist who takes her job as UN ambassador very, very seriously. But I still say she’s not appreciated for her acting as much as she should be. Not that we should, you know, feel that sorry for her. I just wish she'd get to more substanive roles other than, punching sharks. Though she punches sharks quite well.
Oscar-Winning, Statuesque Runner-Up: Charlize Theron
9. Rachel McAdams
This is when I fell in love with Rachel McAdams. When she was that bitchy blonde in Mean Girls. And not simply because she was cute or hot or whatever your boyfriend thought when he was leaving the theater but because the girl knew how to lose her mind on screen—a testament to almost every Oscar winning hottie around (check Jessica Lange, Sissy Spacek, Meryl Streep, Charlize Theron etc. and so on). Here’s the scene— when she discovered the Swedish nutrition bars Lindsay Lohan was feeding her actually made her gain weight and, in a state of Mean Girl psychosis, she trashed her room in a foamed mouth frenzy, I said to myself—“There’s a star.” But I’m a woman. I love her "I'm a lard ass" crazy. Most men who’re in love (or lust) with McAdams fell for her in Wedding Crashers where she represents the most perfect girlfriend a guy will never have. Though I adored her in that film (and Red Eye as well), I want to see her freaky fire one more time.
Comedy/Tragedy Chameleon Runner-Up: Reese Witherspoon
8. Catherine Zeta-Jones
I love old movie stars. Jean Harlow, Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, Bette Davis were inimitable icons who weaved glamour and acting with an unapologetic gusto that marks newer movie stars as divas. Case in point, the very old school glamorous and frequently hated Catherine Zeta-Jones. A woman’s woman, the Legend of Zorro beauty shuns faddish fashion, ingénue starvation and rock star boyfriends (the latter being extremely true given the age difference with husband Michael Douglas) in favor of the finer things—or rather, things pseudo bohemian actress’ pretend to eschew. In other words, though Zeta-Jones is a fine actress and a triple threat talent (she can act, sing and dance), she’s not afraid of being a movie star. Which elicits criticism. To which I say, so what and good for her. I hope she's screaming at the help over the dirt ring a potted plant made on her fine marble floor. Hollywood needs an actress to carry the bitch goddess torch. My only problem with Catherine Zeta-Jones is that she’s slated to play Lana Turner, a role that should have gone to my next entry, Sharon Stone.
Exotic Beauty Runner-Up: Salma Hayek
7. Sharon Stone
Yes, that’s right, Sharon Stone. Stone, who wanted to make the uber dramatic story of Lana Turner and her troubled daughter Cheryl Crane, would have been perfect as the blonde icon. Like Catherine Zeta-Jones, she’s a continuation of the old fashioned glamour girl, enjoying her clothes, money and basking in the limelight. And beyond her inherent Basic Instinct (and the upcoming Basic Instinct 2) sex appeal, she’s got a toughness to her (which made her perfect as a leathered gunslinger in Sam Raimi’s criminally underrated The Quick and the Dead), something you would not want to ever cross. When she mixes her harsher attributes with real vulnerability she nails it—like her brilliant role as Ginger in Martin Scorsese’s Casino (where she wears her costumes soooo gorgeously it almost makes me tear up--that beige leather outfit...oh my GOD). And though time marches on, Stone still maintains the hot factor. Partially, for me, because she seems slightly nuts (do you get the feeling she laughed heartily when her ex husband was bit by that kimono dragon? I do.). And yet, always the actress, check her out in Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers, where, interestingly, she’s the warmest woman present.
Older Babe Who’s Proven She Has the Chops Runner-Up: Michelle Pfeiffer
6. Scarlett Johansson
With a voice that deep and occasionally, that deadpan (watch Ghost World) sometimes I forget that Scarlett Johansson is a mere 21-years old. Which is what marks her so different from other ingénues. She’s certainly lovely (as every man watching Lost in Translation will attest) but she’s got an edge that makes her peers seem almost silly. She’s girly but not girly girly. Which is probably why Woody Allen, so impressed with the young thespian, cast her not once but twice (and in a row) in his two newest pictures—Match Point and Scoop. And her bottom teeth are crooked. Crooked teeth=sexy.
Ingenue Dynamo Runner-Up: Keira Knightley
5. Joaquin Phoenix
Part character actor, part leading man, part enigma, Joaquin Phoenix has been cinema’s sneak attack for years. I say sneak attack because audiences are still surprised by his depth and range, which shouldn’t be any shock given how much feeling the actor so viscerally injects into his parts. There is absolutely nothing fake about Joaquin Phoenix. The brother to the beloved and supremely talented River Phoenix, Joaquin is, in a way, the odder brother— the one with those intensely emotive eyes, scarred lip, raw disposition and shy smile. He’s not typical beefcake (thank goodness) and he’s not typical, stock masculinity. He’s quite simply, downright special. You’ll see that special-ness when he poetically, portrays Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. And I like scars. I can go on and on about the appeal of Ray Liotta's pock marks.
Intense, Not Just a Pretty Boy Runner-Up: James Franco
4. Vince Vaughn
I can make an entire separate list of funny people who’re more appealing than whomever’s on the cover of People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” issue. But I’ll stick with one for now, my longstanding favorite, Vince Vaughn, whose unavoidable good looks, yet strangeness found him toiling in straight parts for most of the ‘90s. After his splash as the lothario of Swingers, VV was hot property and set for leading man status, a role he didn’t take to so easily. It’s not that he was bad, he, in fact, made a lot of films more interesting by his mere presence (watch the tepid Domestic Disturbance light up when a had-to-be-in-on-it Vaughn turns the whole story comedic with his evil stepdad routine), but he wasn’t allowed to do what he does best—riff. A large part of Vaughn’s appeal is in his ability to mix a Gen X sensibility with retro Rat Pack panache (VV could easily hold his own with Frank, Dean and Sammy). Thanks to the under-watched Made and more recently, Old School, Dodgeball and Wedding Crashers, the gargantuan tall (6’6) Vaughn has become the A-lister he should have always been.
Comic Genius Runner-Up: Owen Wilson
3. Billy Bob Thornton
Uh, yes, you read me right. Billy Bob Thornton is sexy. Why? Well, because humor, emotion and charisma are all necessary attributes to sex appeal. And Billy Bob has those in spades. He’s also incredibly versatile and a charming rake. Whatever type he’s playing— challenged, goofy, sociopathic, sweet, bitter, hilarious (and, for fans of Bad Santa, bitterly hilarious--pathetic drunks are sexy too--think of Mickey Rourke in Barfly), he makes it so markedly Billy Bob that you can’t imagine anyone else in the role. So, yes, I repeat, Billy Bob Thornton is hot. If you don’t believe me, ask Angelina “the most attractive woman in the world” Jolie. In case you forgot she was once married to the guy.
Oddly Sexy Character Actor Runner Up: Steve Buscemi
2. Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp seems so obvious but then, there’s a reason he’s obvious—he’s one of the greatest looking humans on the face of the earth. And age isn’t slowing him down. Depp, who can move from campy Ed Wood to bizarre-o Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to a gorgeous gypsy charmer in the otherwise dorky Chocolat to a crusty pirate in The Pirates of the Caribbean with nary a trace of effort and zero loss of attractiveness (think of all the millions of women who were surprisingly stirred by rotting teeth, dirty long hair and unintelligible pirate speak). But what’s his secret? He still looks a good 29 years old. Is it a special soap? All that French cuisine? Or something more sinister, like a rotting portrait a la The Picture of Dorian Grey? Who knows. Who cares. Whatever he’s doing (or not doing), it’s working.
Smart and Daring Matinee Idol Runner Up: George Clooney
1. Heath Ledger
Heath Ledger has gone underrated for quite some time now mostly because he’s so, well, attractive. Considered by many the Aussie heir to Brad Pitt—look wise—Ledger is nevertheless more distinct than just another chromosomally blessed blonde guy. He’s soulful and offbeat without trying too hard (see Lords of Dogtown); he’s game for making fun of himself (see A Knight’s Tale--a role the actor loathed but was nevertheless, incredibly funny in) and effortlessly charming without being cheesy (see Casanova). He’s also quite daring as his acclaimed and probably oscar nominated performance in Brokeback Mountain (as a gay cowboy) has proven. Oh and yes, did I mention he’s, as Derek Zoolander would say, really, really ridiculously good looking? And believe me, I would never think him simply good looking had he not puffed his stomach up and mumbled through Lords of Dogtown. With exceptions (like, say, Grace Kelly) beauty must be made "ugly" before I consider it attractive.
Handsome Blond Actor with Range Runner-Up: Brad Pitt
This was extended and tweaked from my piece on Fandango.com.