We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
This week’s “Question of the Week” on Jeff Bayer’s “Movie B.S.” podcast is inspired by Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, a film about bullies and wimps clashing within the American educational infrastructure (I’m just assuming – Jeff reviewed it, I didn’t).
In honor of the wimps and their bullies, it’s time to think about the best clashes between the two in all of cinematic history. Below is a list that covers the moments of “Bully vs. Wimp,” but it doesn’t necessarily mean victory for the little guy. Sometimes, the wimp wins, but in others, the bully just keeps on harassin’, sassin’, and obviously, bullyin’.
Here are the Top 7 Bully vs. Wimp Moments …
7. Porky’s (1982)
Bully: Porky Wallace (Chuck Mitchell)
Wimp: Young men of Angel Beach High School (Dan Monahan, Wyatt Knight, Tony Ganios, etc.)
Moment: The unintentional destruction of Porky’s club
Reason: After the Angel Beach boys get kicked out of Porky’s skeevy gentleman’s club (and young lad Mickey gets the crap beat out of them), they decide the best way to defeat the very piggy bully is to destroy the bridge that leads to the establishment. By accident, this also causes the swamp-hovering club to collapse. It’s not the funniest moment in this movie (in fact, it’s kind of stressful to see the prank blow itself up out of hand), but it’s certainly a victory for procreant boys over piggish party poopers everywhere.
6. From Here to Eternity (1953)
Bully: Sgt. ‘Fatso’ Judson (Ernest Borgnine)
Wimp: Pvt. Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra)
Special Mediator: Sgt. Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster)
Moment: Fatso disrespects a picture of Angelo’s sister while everyone is trying to relax at a bar, so Angelo does what anyone else would do – conks Fatso on the head with a stool. Fatso brings a knife out, and then Sgt. Warden talks really fast and says the two shouldn’t fight because it would be “two weeks worth of paperwork.”
Reason: Here’s a clash where the bully and wimp both get a moment to act like tough guys. It looks like it could go either way, but then Sgt. Warden, the real tough guy who uses reason over fist, puts out the flame (for now). This might be how all bully vs. wimp moments should end, but … there’s only one Sgt. Warden, and there are at least TWO Straw Dogs films now.
5. Network (1971)
Bully: Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty)
Wimp: Howard Beale (Peter Finch)
Moment: Thunderous Jensen schools broadcaster Beale on the reality of business, and TV was never the same. (I referenced this scene in my essay about the Avengers’ box office success, which can be read here.)
Reason: This is the Forbes Magazine equivalent of Sarge’s nightmarish screaming in Full Metal Jacket (celebrated on this list below). It’s an intimidating melee of cannon fire words, and the context of it is even scarier. This isn’t just a victory of bullies over wimps, but of money over everything else in the world. It isn’t like a bully taking your lunch money, it’s like a bully telling you you’ll be giving them your lunch money … FOREVER!
4. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Bully: Sarge (R. Lee Ermey)
Wimp: Pvt. Joker (Matthew Modine), Pvt. Cowboy, (Arliss Howard) Pvt. Gomer Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio)
Moment: A group of green Marines are assaulted physically and verbally by their new sergeant.
Reason: Any list that discusses movie bullies wouldn’t be replete without the presence of R. Lee Ermey’s terrifying ball-buster in Full Metal Jacket. Ermey’s performance is so strong director Stanley Kubrick practically gives him free reign for the first half of this war classic. Nonetheless, Jacket isn’t best when the wimps fight back (Vincent D’Onofrio’s concluding act is the half’s weakest point). Nope, it’s when he’s scaring everyone (including us) stiff. And for levels bullying, this scene has everything. Helplessness, verbal abuse that is so fast and grotesque that it’s almost funny, and a whole bunch of emasculation.
3. Back to the Future (1985)
Bully: Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson)
Wimp: George McFly (Crispin Glover)
Moment: To rescue his future high school sweetheart from possible rape by big bully Biff, nerdy George McFly gains the gusto (and fist power) to knock out the jerk with one punch across the face.
Reason: This is pure nerd catharsis. Violence is never the right answer, but in this movie, there’s nothing we want to see more than dweeby McFly stand up to someone who has tormented him, while also winning the admiration of the girl. It’s simple, it’s kind of hokey, but it certainly is sweet. And yes, this one punch does change the world forever.
2. There Will Be Blood (2007)
Bully: Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis)
Wimp: Eli Sunday (Paul Dano)
Moment: In this conclusion to a great film, crazy ol’ man Plainview harasses fallen evangelist Eli after Eli comes to the lonely oil tycoon for help. Plainview tells Sunday that he drinks his milkshake, and then hurls bowling balls at him.
Reason: Some people think this scene is comical, and they’re wrong. This closing moment to the best film of the past decade is pure, frantic insanity, with bully Plainview unleashing all his angst on super wimpy Sunday. Plainview might be the worst bully to ever wimp out in front of – Plainview slaps hard, he yells, and he isn’t afraid to use a bowling pin as a head-crusher.
1. Straw Dogs (1971)
Bully: Charlie (Del Henney)
Wimp: David (Dustin Hoffman)
Moment: Beartrap Attack
Reason: Nothing erases a history of swirlies and wedgies more than putting a beartrap on someone’s head, crushing their neck, and subsequently giving them a great obituary. Though Straw Dogs has merit as a great exploration of man’s capability for violence, it also is a golden story of a wimpy man (a mathematician) not taking any more crap from people bigger and skeevier than him (even if one of them did use to go “steady” with his wife, whatever). If you want to really miss the point of Straw Dogs, then yes, this is the best Revenge of the Nerds movie ever made.