How to Be a Man: 6 Iconic Movie Characters Who Exude Confidence — And What We Can Learn From Them

Fight Club Movie PosterI love movies. Old movies. New movies. Scary movies. Funny movies. Sad movies. Whatever. You might be able to relate, but a lot of my earliest models of masculinity come from film.

Think about it: When you’re a kid your first hero might be your dad. After that it’s Han Solo and Aragorn. Television is a lot of fun, but there’s something about a manly movie hero that shows you a way to live your life.

Recently I was watching Fight Club for first time in forever and it got me to thinking about cinematic heroes. That’s probably not a coincidence. Lots of guys that I’ve met through The Art of Charm had the fires of masculinity within them stoked by that movie. Sure, it might not have made you want to get into fist fights with your friends in parking lots — though it might just have — but it probably got you thinking about how to be a better man.

What made that so attractive was the effortless cool exuded by the chief and (spoiler alert!) imaginary protagonist, Tyler Durden. This got me to thinking: Who are some of the other cinematic heroes you could learn lessons from? And, perhaps more importantly, what tips do they have for how to be an effective man in the 21st Century?? If you’re looking for effective ways to build self-confidence, read on.

The Driver: Strong and silent is a good look.

You know… from Drive? Ryan Gosling’s character didn’t have a name, so I’m just going to call him “The Driver.”

What We Can Learn From Him:

If you remember the movie, you remember that there wasn’t much in the way of dialogue. Of everyone in the movie, Gosling’s Driver probably spoke the least. And yet, he was the hero. He got the girl… sort of. He was also a bona fide bad ass who single-handedly took on the mob. And while the ending is ambiguous, we know one thing: Irene, his neighbor and her son, Benicio, are alive because of his efforts.

We’re not saying that you need to take on the mafia in a life-or-death struggle to impress a girl. What we are saying is that you don’t have to gab constantly to get a woman’s interest. In fact, while we want you to be outgoing, there’s nothing wrong with being silent when the time calls for it.

A recent study found that having a deep voice got women interested in a man… but not as much as not using that deep voice: Women were more attracted to men who used fewer words than men who used more. You might not be able to change the tone of your voice; But one thing you can change is how much you’re using that voice. In fact, this study is backed up by another done recently that found basically the same thing: women are into guys who don’t talk more than they have to. Given that the average woman talks about three times as much as a man in any given day, it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise that men who give women room to speak are popular among women.

Don’t be silent for its own sake. Just give her space to talk. Never feel like you have to speak just to fill empty space.

Indiana Jones: Nerds can be super manly.

I had a hard time choosing between Indiana Jones and that other classic Harrison Ford performance, Han Solo, but ultimately went here.

When Marie Claire, Glamour and Cosmopolitan post articles praising nerds and explaining to women how to pick up on them, you know we’re in a cultural moment where nerdy guys are hot. I mean, seriously, you have Justin Timberlake throwing on a pair of horn rims, Jimmy Fallon has the most coveted time slot in late night and Ashton Kutcher is probably more known for his tech obsessions than his television series. All of this adds up to one thing: The nerds of today are not the Lambdas of Revenge of the Nerds; They’re more like the guys from Big Bang Theory… only cooler.

Back to Dr. Jones: It’s not just that he’s a two-fisted man of action; It’s that women hang on his every word when he starts talking about archaeology. Remember the scene with the girl in his class who painted “I Love You” on her eyelids?

Women like intelligence. In fact, there seems to be more of a problem with smart men not liking smart women than with women in general disliking smart men. She might not have any idea what you’re going on about when you’re telling her how the Internet of Things is the biggest threat to national security since our desperately compromised national power grid, but she’s going to love that you know what you’re talking about.

Are you a little nerdy? Do you have niche interest or obscure knowledge? Don’t be a know it all; But do own it. Because it’s sexy.

James Bond: The bigger the skill set, the greater the confidence.

Here’s a guy who needs no other introduction than: Bond. James Bond. And yeah, we’ve heard that martinis don’t have vodka and are supposed to be stirred; But are you really going to argue with James Bond?

It’s fairly well attested that learning new skills is one of the best ways to build self-confidence. If learning one skill makes you more confident, what do you think learning ten of them will do?

There’s more in play here than just the pleasure that comes with learning something new. When you learn a new skill, you’re making yourself into a more useful man. If you can fix your own car, you can fix her car. If you can unclog your own sink, you can unclog hers. Do you see where we’re going with this? Not only are you a more self-reliant man, you’re also a man that she can rely on.

Trust me when I tell you that no matter how good you are at talking to women, she’s going to love you ten times more after you change the oil on her car. Manly skills are something sadly and sorely missing in today’s society. Boost your own confidence and make yourself a more objectively attractive man by learning new skills. Pick the one thing you’ve always wanted to learn and start learning it.

Rocky Balboa: Winning isn’t everything.

Forget the sequels… even if seeing Rocky single-handedly end the Cold War is pretty awesome. Go back to the original.

What happens at the end of the original Rocky? Stallone’s character wins, right? He beats Apollo Creed, becomes world champion and makes piles of money.


What most people don’t remember about the first Rocky is that he doesn’t win. He doesn’t go home to millions of dollars, a big mansion and the hottest girl in Philly. He fights to a draw, going the full 15 rounds. The film ends with him and Adrian expressing their love for one another. The fight is almost instantly forgotten.

Most of us aren’t ever going to be world champion boxers, invent Facebook or win an Oscar. And that’s fine. Because what really matters in life is that we do the best that we can. That we meet our own personal goals. That we live in a way that’s most fulfilling to us.

Ferris Bueller: Social skills matter more than anything else.

It’s been a minute since I’ve seen this movie, but I’ll never forget the first time: on a snow day when I was 7 years old. I sat down to watch it again when I decided to write this, because I knew there would be some value to take away. And, of course, I was right.

Penelope Trunk, a blogger, Harvard Business School alum and founder of four startups. She points out that “When it comes to holding down a job, social skills matter today more than ever. For people who want to break into a popular field like entertainment, for example, the only way to differentiate yourself at the bottom is to be likeable.”

Many fields that used to be havens for loners, like programming, increasingly require exceptional people skills.

What’s more, as others learn better social skills, the overall bar for social skills rises, says Trunk.

Perhaps more pressing than social skills on the job, there’s the question of social skills in your social life. Let’s look at Ferris: He’s a 16-year-old kid who’s able to pass himself off as the Sausage King of Chicago — and I’d bet dollars to donuts that he didn’t pay for that meal. Matthew Broderick plays him as a most charming con man; He’s not cheating people. He’s giving them an amazing experience.

What we see in Ferris is a classic example of how a man with highly attenuated social skills can open the door to just about anything for himself. That’s why I’m such a big believer and why I founded The Art of Charm in the first place: Because I want every man to learn how to be as slick as Ferris.

Tyler Durden: Let your freak flag fly.

Listen, let’s just cut to the chase: Tyler Durden is a weird dude. The iconic red leather jacket is just about the least weird thing about him. He creates a terrorist cult whose only objective is causing chaos. And yet, so far as we can tell, he’s the only one in Fight Club with a girlfriend.

And what a girlfriend she is! Just about as odd as he is. Certainly not to my liking, but can you imagine Tyler with anyone but Marla?

We don’t need studies to back this up: If you’re a little out there, there’s not really any point in downplaying it. You are who you are and you’re going to need a woman who’s into you — not some character you create for when you go out and try to meet women.

Everyone has seen at least one romantic comedy in their time where a guy fakes being something; Then the girl finds out and it all falls apart. The only difference here between the movies and real life is that there’s not going to be some grand reconciliation after the truth comes out.

I’m a big believer in guys learning how to be the best version of themselves. That’s the only way — the only way — you’re going to find a woman who’s right for you.

At the end of the day, you can find examples to strive for anywhere: In movies, in music, in comics, at work or in your family. What matters isn’t who they are but what they teach you. Who are some of your cinematic heroes of manliness? Which of these do you identify with and which do you not? Leave a comment and let us know. We’re always looking to add to our list.

If you’re looking for more tips on the best ways to build self-confidence, explore our blog and check out the podcast!