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March 3, 2012 7:06 PM   Subscribe

Suggestions for movies with smart/resourceful protagonists.

I like a genre of movie that I have defined as the "smart protagonist" genre. That is, a main character who is clever and/or resourceful. Some movies I've seen that I place in this genre (where there is a series, I've just listed the character/series name):

The Shawshank Redemption
Bourne
Die Hard
Indiana Jones
Batman Begins/Dark Knight
Mr. Brooks
Taken
The Fugitive
Inside Man

Any suggestions for movies that I'd like based on the characters in these movies? I've listed thrillers/action movies, but comedies and dramas are ok too. The antithesis of the character I'm envisioning is Paul Giamatti's character from Sideways.
posted by melissasaurus to Media & Arts (51 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
Michael Clayton isn't an action film but suits well, and has a particularly satisfying few final scenes.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 7:09 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Multiple protagonists but Oceans 11/12/13?
posted by hapax_legomenon at 7:11 PM on March 3, 2012


Sherlock Holmes.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:15 PM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


National Treasure (and the sequel).
posted by blurker at 7:17 PM on March 3, 2012


It makes me giggle to suggest this, but George Clooney in O Brother, Where Art Thou.

Hanna

Pretty much everyone in Zombieland
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:26 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Under Siege
The Edge
Rescue Dawn
They Were Expendable
posted by goalyeehah at 7:26 PM on March 3, 2012


Han Solo
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:27 PM on March 3, 2012


Limitless?
posted by karizma at 7:27 PM on March 3, 2012


Sleuth
Inglorious Basterds, Kill Bill 1 and 2
Rescue Dawn, Little Dieter Needs to Fly
True Grit
Out of Sight
posted by mellifluous at 7:28 PM on March 3, 2012


Angelina Jolie's title character in Salt, and also, her and Brad Pitt's roles in Mr & Mrs Smith.

Bruce Willis has more or less made a career out of playing this character: Red, The Fifth Element.

Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man (after all, Tony Stark built his first Iron Man suit IN A CAVE! WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS!)
posted by jamaro at 7:29 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


All the President's Men.
Woodward and Bernstein, reporters, doggedly investigate the Watergate scandal.
It's based on true events.

The Good the Bad, and the Ugly. The Man with no Name is a resourceful character. Though I think over the whole movie he does spend some time being pushed by the winds of fate..
posted by hot_monster at 7:29 PM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


District B13
Alien
The Sting
Home Alone
Midnight Run
The Great Escape
Jack Ryan movies
Leon
Ronin
Last Man Standing
Slumdog Millionaire
posted by MoonOrb at 7:29 PM on March 3, 2012


You can get weekly hits of this type of thing from the television series Burn Notice, Covert Affairs, and (more absurdly but still fun) Leverage. In Burn Notice, your guy is Michael Westen with help from Bruce Campbell. On Covert Affairs it's moderately realistic contemporary CIA stuff. Leverage has a team of thieves stealing stuff from rich and powerful corporate types on behalf of the little guy, often using confidence games.
posted by cgc373 at 7:29 PM on March 3, 2012


Castaway
posted by Burhanistan at 7:30 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


You might also like:

Eagle Eye
Source Code
Enemy of the State
Narrow Margin
The Package
posted by MoonOrb at 7:32 PM on March 3, 2012


The Verdict
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:34 PM on March 3, 2012


Also, I'd say Ides of March.
posted by karizma at 7:34 PM on March 3, 2012


Fargo (Marge Gunderson)
posted by usonian at 7:34 PM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sneakers
posted by SPrintF at 7:34 PM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for all of the suggestions so far - some I've seen, but definitely a few new ones I'll have to pick up. Keep 'em coming!
posted by melissasaurus at 7:37 PM on March 3, 2012


Maybe not what you're looking for, but Will Graham and his FBI associates in Manhunter are pretty damn sharp.
posted by SPrintF at 7:38 PM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Great Escape
posted by jgirl at 7:39 PM on March 3, 2012


Late 80's TV series Probe
posted by -harlequin- at 7:44 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Catch me if you Can
posted by sweetkid at 7:47 PM on March 3, 2012


The second half of 2001: A Space Odyssey is dominated by a battle of wits between Bowman (protagonist) and HAL (antagonist).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:49 PM on March 3, 2012


No Country for Old Men.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:57 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Miss Marple. Poirot. Moon. I'd also argue that some of the characters from LOST are extremely resourceful and/or clever [Ben Linus, I'm looking at you.]
posted by oxfordcomma at 7:59 PM on March 3, 2012


It's astonishingly silly, but Buckaroo Banzai.
posted by scruss at 8:07 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seconding Out of Sight.
posted by Mchelly at 8:08 PM on March 3, 2012


What's Up, Doc?
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 8:12 PM on March 3, 2012


I think there's some overlap with my favorite genre, the CIA/spy retirement/extrication thriller:
Hanna
Hopscotch
Spy Game

Other stuff:
Limitless

2nding/nthing:
Out of Sight
Kill Bill
posted by carsonb at 8:33 PM on March 3, 2012


Lucky Number Slevin.
posted by axiom at 8:42 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Croupier
posted by easy, lucky, free at 8:46 PM on March 3, 2012


Wow, I want to watch all these too, and almost...every...single...one...is NOT available on Netflix. What the hay?

Except MacGyver. You can watch all of MacGyver.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 8:55 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Law Abiding Citizen
Shooter
XIII: The Conspiracy
The Italian Job (2003)
Day of the Jackal (1973)
The Firm (1993)
The Lincoln Lawyer
16 Blocks
The Thomas Crown Affair (1999 version - I didn't find Steve McQueen in the 1968 version all that clever.)
The Silent Partner (1978)
Quick Change (1990)
posted by Bokmakierie at 9:12 PM on March 3, 2012


Gone Baby Gone
posted by artdrectr at 9:20 PM on March 3, 2012


I'll have to nominate the movie "Drive" with Ryan Gosling. It's not the kind of movie that it may appear to be...
posted by foxhat10 at 9:24 PM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, to "Burn Notice." The resourcefulness in getting out of a pickle (think MacGuyver with guns) is usually the highlight of every episode. Also, Bruce Campbell is ever a delight.
posted by elizeh at 10:34 PM on March 3, 2012


The girl with the dragon tattoo
The long kiss goodnight
Clan of the cave bear
posted by semacd at 11:03 PM on March 3, 2012


Perfect question to answer with one of my most favorite films:

Three Days Of The Condor (1975)

2nd'ing The Sting, Ronin, Sneakers, Buckaroo Banzai, and The Day Of The Jackal.
posted by theartandsound at 11:11 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe not what you're looking for, but Will Graham and his FBI associates in Manhunter are pretty damn sharp.

The same goes for the later adaptation of the same novel, Red Dragon.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:22 PM on March 3, 2012


Panic Room
Enough (JLo as abused wife but totally worth it for the vengeance-plotting)
posted by thinkpiece at 6:56 AM on March 4, 2012


Some of these films involve a couple or a team of resourceful protagonists:

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - out right now, very much worth seeing for any reason
D.O.A. (old version with Edmond O'Brien)
White Heat (Edmond O'Brien again)
Black Book
The Lives of Others
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
The Lady Vanishes
Apollo 13
The Pianist (warning: harrowing)
posted by Currer Belfry at 7:40 AM on March 4, 2012


If you are willing to see some foreign films:

Swades
Castaway on the Moon
Goodbye Lenin

Swades and Castaway on the Moon are currently on Netfilx instant stream.
posted by I'm Brian and so's my wife! at 7:54 AM on March 4, 2012


Talented Mr. Ripley
Gattaca
posted by halfbuckaroo at 9:10 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are you open to animation? If so, how about Spirited Away or The Incredibles?
posted by rjs at 9:42 AM on March 4, 2012


Seconding Goodbye Lenin. The inventiveness of the son and his friends is fantastic.
posted by scruss at 9:44 AM on March 4, 2012


Based on your list of examples, you absolutely, positively need to watch Brick.

My backup recommendation is The Disappearance of Alice Creed. Both are on Netflix streaming if you have it.

And I'm assuming you've seen The Prestige, but if not, that's also a must.
posted by Sibrax at 11:48 AM on March 4, 2012


Brains over brawn? Try FX, Bryan Brown is pretty good in this
posted by ergomatic at 9:20 PM on March 6, 2012


Thanks everyone! I'm best answering (a) the one's I've seen that I think fall in the genre, and (b) the ones I haven't seen as I see them and like them.
posted by melissasaurus at 4:24 PM on March 7, 2012


Trapped
The River Wild
(Charlize Theron and Meryl Street as women in peril who have to outthink ... Kevin Bacon!)
posted by thinkpiece at 12:08 PM on March 8, 2012


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