Ballistic’s 10 List of the Most Famous Movie Guns
Whether it was a western, crime drama, or battle with aliens, the hero may save the day but with an impressive piece of firepower in the hand or in some cases hands. Action stars in big-budget blockbusters need the signature guns that make a statement. In some cases, the right movie gun becomes as famous as the star wielding it, and rightfully so.
At the same time villains have been able to become even more “villainous” because of their guns. See “The Man With the Golden Gun”. Can you think of a hero that has his gun literally included in the title?
Here is a compilation of the absolute 10 most famous movie guns of all time. These guns aren’t just ready for their close-up, they deserve top billing with the overpaid action stars.
10. “Dirty Harry” — The .44 Magnum
Beginning with “Dirty Harry” in 1971, Clint Eastwood has been forever tied to the character and Harry’s iconic “hand cannon.” Detective Inspector Harry Callahan makes his screen debut by foiling a daylight bank robbery. He kills two of the robbers and wounds a third — with that wounded robber slowly reaching for a gun. Harry admits he lost track of the number of rounds fired. “But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”
From that moment the long-barreled Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum became infamous and so sought after that the price increased threefold over the suggested retail price. “Dirty Harry” spawned four commercially successful sequels — with 1983’s “Sudden Impact” offering another classic quote: “Go ahead, make my day.”
9. “Desperado” — The Guitar Case MAC-10 and Rocket Launcher
Whether or not real-life gangsters ever concealed weapons — such as a Tommy Gun — in a violin case is a matter for debate. But the early gangster films of the 1930s popularized the myth. It was updated in 1995’s “Desperado,” where “El Mariachi” literally transformed the case into a gun.
Inside was a modified Military Armament Corporation Model 10, more commonly known as a MAC-10. The sound effects from the M134 Minigun were used to suggest the high rate of fire. Reloading the gun would be difficult, but that didn’t seem to be a worry for El Mariachi or his compatriots.
In addition to the machine gun guitar case, the film also features one loaded with a rocket launcher. Talk about “heavy metal!” We might never look at a mariachi band quite the same way again.
8. The 007 Series — James Bond’s Walther PPK
The suave British “secret agent” James Bond has had numerous gadgets and gizmos over the years. He even had a laser gun at one point. But when it comes to firepower, the weapon most associated with the character is the Walther PPK. It made its debut in the Ian Fleming novel “Dr. No” as well as the 1962 film adaptation, and this would remain his primary weapon until 1997’s “Tomorrow Never Dies.”
However, the literary version of Bond had actually been using a Beretta 418. Then British firearms expert Geoffrey Boothroyd suggested to Fleming that the Beretta was a “lady’s gun.” He further suggested Bond use the PPK instead. As a thank you the character Q was based on Boothroyd and actually called “Major Boothroyd” in the film “The Spy Who Loved Me.” Ever since, Bond’s Walther PPK has become one of the most famous movie guns in cinematic history.
As for the PPK itself, it was actually somewhat infamous for being used by the Nazis during World War II. Adolf Hitler is believed to have shot and killed himself with his own PPK.
7. “The Man With the Golden Gun” — The Golden Gun
The aforementioned James Bond faced many enemies who carried notable firearms. Technically he faced two villains armed with Golden Guns. The first is the gold-plated Colt Model 1908 Vest Pocket carried by Auric Goldfinger in “Goldfinger”.
But the more “famous” golden gun was the 4.2mm handgun wielded by Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) in the 1974 adaptation. The weapon could break down for concealment as a pen, cuff link, lighter, and cigarette case. It was just what any globe-traveling assassin might need to remain undetected. It held just a single shot — a golden bullet with the name of the intended victim no less — to present a “challenge” for the master assassin.
Multiple prop versions were created for the movie including one that could be assembled and another that was used for firing sequences. The fact that a highly paid assassin needed the added risk of having such a weapon simply adds to the mystique of the character. It is pure gold.
6. “Scarface” — The “Little Friend”
Back in 1983, the Colt AR-15 was far less ubiquitous than it is today. So seeing Tony Montana (Al Pacino) in 1983’s “Scarface” using one equipped with an M203 grenade launcher was impactful. The fact that Tony yelled out, “Say hello to my little friend!” made the gun simply iconic. Montana blew away several hired assassins with a 40mm grenade and emptied two magazines. They just happened to be taped together “jungle style.” For a coked-out drug lord, Montana was on the ball with his weapon of choice.
Despite this firearm becoming one of the most famous movie guns, this film sadly is what defined the black gun as the go-to choice for drug lords and gangsters. Even if no criminal likely ever used a grenade launcher. In fact, the M203 was actually fabricated for the film because the property master was unable to locate any live launchers. Maybe a drug lord would have better luck. The same faux M203 was reused in the film Predator.
5. “Predator” — The Minigun
In a 1980’s Arnold Schwarzenegger film featuring an invisible alien hunter, the most outrageous part might just be the hand-held M134 Minigun carried by professional wrestler and future Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura. The idea that anyone – including a beefed-out wrestler – could carry the gun, battery pack, and ammunition through the Central American jungles is a bit of a stretch.
But in the context of the film, which again features an invisible Predator taking part in an intergalactic safari, it works! Director John McTiernan actually requested that the on-set armorers reduce the rate of fire from a normal 6,000 RPM to a mere 1,250 RPM. He wanted the audience to see the barrels spin. Ventura described the filming experience to “firing a chainsaw.” In the film it looks impressive, even if it is totally impractical.
4. Multiple Westerns with John Wayne — Winchester Model 1892
It would be impossible to nail down one gun that truly defined the Western, but the Winchester Model 1892 might be the one that comes the closest. It didn’t really make its debut until the closing days of the American frontier, and the Model 1866 and 1873 were really the “Guns that Won the West,” but onscreen it is the Model 1892 in the hands of John Wayne that simply evoked the Old West.
Because it was originally produced from 1892 until 1945 this model Winchester was the one used in dozens of films and TV shows. To movie makers, it looked close enough to the earlier models. Wayne famously carried one in dozens of films including “Red River,” “The Searchers,” “Rio Bravo,” “Big Jake,” and notably in his Oscar-winning performance in “True Grit.” It might not have tamed the west but the Winchester Model 1892 was the Duke’s gun and that alone makes it one of the most famous movie guns along with being the ultimate western gun for the genre.
3. “Aliens” — The M56 Smart Gun
The “Alien” series began as a horror film in space, but the first — and easily best — of the sequels, “Aliens,” took more of an action-adventure approach. It featured a unit of battle-hardened Colonial Marines. Instead of laser weapons, director James Cameron opted for more realistic advanced small arms. This included the M56 Smart Gun, an advanced weapons system that featured a built-in guidance system. It fired 10mm caseless high-explosive rounds.
The fictional weapon operated with the assistance of a servo-controlled harness. The actual heavily modified MG-42 machine gun was mounted on a Steadicam rig. Handlebars from a 1976 Husqvarna Magura 360 motorcycle further dressed up the prop.
Two different M56s, likely custom-built, appeared on-screen with slight variations. PFC J. Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein) sums up the wearable heavy weapon best, yelling out before blasting away at the Xenomorphs, “Let’s rock!”
2. “Underworld” — The Modified, Full-Auto Beretta 92FS
As a Death Dealer — a vampire assassin tasked with taking out Lycans (werewolves) in the “Underworld” series — Selene (Kate Beckinsale) didn’t rely on silver bullets alone. She used a pair of modified Beretta 92FS handguns to deliver the rounds. These guns, which in the film fire on full auto and feature recoil compensators to reduce recoil, not only stop the Lycan but even allow Selene to make a hasty exit through a floor!
As with many movie guns, there needs to be a bit of suspension of disbelief. Selene rarely reloads, and on full auto, the magazine emptied in seconds. But in a series that features a century’s long war between vampires and werewolves, this is a small nitpick. In fact, Beretta manufactured the 93R for police and military use and offered it in semi-automatic and three-round burst modes. Given that vampires have little else to do it seems reasonable that they’d be able to make this conversion. Who wouldn’t want to blast away at some monsters with a pair of modified Berettas?
1. “Star Wars” — Han Solo’s Blaster (Mauser C96)
For a truly unique weapon that has a retro look, we’d have to go back a long time ago and to a galaxy far, far away. Or just go back 113 years to Germany, because Han Solo’s BlasTech DL-44 heavy blaster pistol actually derives from the Mauser C96 “Broomhandle” pistol with various embellishments.
The scope actually changes depending on the film but was originally a World War I Hensoldt Wetzlar Dialyt 3X scope. With its original mounting, it included an M3 “Grease Gun” conical flash hider. The “Star Wars” trilogy used multiple versions. It wasn’t the Galactic Empire that actually created the sidearm for smugglers and rebels alike, but rather Imperial Germany. However, Luke carried one in “The Empire Strikes Back”. Of note, one future world leader carried one as a young soldier. It wasn’t Adolf Hitler, but rather Winston Churchill, who opted for the semi-automatic pistol over the British Webley revolver!
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