To celebrate the Aussie star’s 48th birthday, we celebrate his most manly movies…
1. Black Hawk Down
Ridley Scott’s blistering recreation of the failed US military mission in Mogadishu in 1993 holds up as one of the best action films ever made. Utterly believable in its technical accomplishment, the film nevertheless depends on its ensemble to make us care about the fates of these men. Of them, Bana is the most affecting as elite Delta Force soldier Sergeant First Class Norm “Hoot” Hooten. He gets what is still perhaps the best speech ever written to explain why men keep fighting in such hideous conditions.
It may not be one to watch during the Olympics, but this action thriller is a must-see, not only as Eric Bana’s best dramatic performance but also as the darkest film Steven Spielberg has directed outside of Schindler’s List. Bana plays a Mossad agent, tasked with exacting payback on the terrorists responsible for the real-life massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. The extremities of his mission haunt him and us, with the final shot utterly indelible.
This was the role that wowed Aussie audiences who for a decade had known Bana as a TV funnyman who’d also brought the funny to the big screen with The Castle. After he was suggested by Mark “Chopper” Read, Andrew Dominik cast him as the Melbourne heavy and Bana threw himself into the part, studying Chopper in person, putting on an enormous amount of weight and subjecting himself to four hours make-up a day to get the tattoos looking right. The results were chilling.
4. The Castle
Truly, a pool-room worthy Aussie classic. This comedy about working-class doofuses defending their patch of property against an airport development was a surprise box-office hit, grossing more than $10 million and becoming one of our most-quotable flicks (“How’s the serenity?”). And Bana was great as kickboxing accountant Con Petropoulous, the Kerrigan family’s beloved son-in-law.
5. Star Trek
Sadly the franchise has suffered diminishing returns. But the first film of the rebooted series, released in 2009, was a blast of high-spirited adventure, thanks to Chris Pine’s Kirk and Zachary Quinto’s Spock having a terrific villain to face down in Bana’s revenge-driven Romulan space bad-ass Nero.