Swashbuckling Heroes

By Michelle Miles

Swashbuckler: noun. A swaggering swordsman, soldier, or adventurer; daredevil.

I think the first time I heard the word “swashbuckling” I was 9 and it was 1981. Yes, I’m once again referring to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones, the famous archeologist. I like going back to my roots. What can I say?

For this month’s post, I got to thinking about all the swashbuckling heroes there were in the movies. I think for the most part “swashbucklers” are associated with “pirates”. But then along came Indiana Jones, who redefined the word for us. Now our hero carried a whip and/or a gun. Sometimes he was from the future and sometimes from the past. Some were sea-faring and some were space-galloping. But no matter who he was, he was guaranteed to make our hearts flutter and our pulses race.

Let’s explore all those famous men who have swaggered with a sword, adventured with a whip, strutted with a laser gun, and served up rapier wit and razor-sharp sarcasm, all the while getting the girl and apprehending the bad guy.

Captain Blood – probably the first swashbuckler who brought pirates alive! Who could not love Errol Flynn? We loved him in 1935 and we still love him today. Flynn also starred in The Seahawk

Robin Hood – Errol Flynn and Kevin Costner both played the man who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. He wasn’t afraid to fight for what was right from the evil Sheriff of Nottingham and he even did it while courting Maid Marian.

Indiana Jones – When Indy first arrived in 1981, it was Spielberg’s homage to those old serial movies he’d seen as a boy and loved. He wanted to bring his own version to the big screen and boy did he deliver. We have followed Indy on many adventures, witnessed his fear of snakes in the Well of Souls, cheered him on as he rescued the village children from the evil Mola Ram (all the while wooing Willie and snagging the lost Sankara stone), watched as he went through the three challenges to get to the Holy Grail and save his father. Yes, I’m partial to Indy. I grew up with him. It tickles me that my son (the next generation) enjoys the movies, too. He puts the “swash” in swashbuckler. He even knows how to use a whip.

Allan Quatermain – as played by Stewart Granger in the original version of King Solomon’s Mines (1950) with the lovely Deborah Kerr. (The remake with Richard Chamberlain was meh.) I was fairly young the first time I saw this movie and even though he didn’t compare to Indy, he was awfully suave. This version catapulted the British actor to American stardom.

Han Solo – He definitely has the swagger, the gun, the looks and the awesome sarcasm. I adore Han Solo with every fiber of my being. He’s the perfect space pirate, the cowboy among the stars that can make the ladies swoon while shooting the bad guys and saving the day with a wise crack. LOVE him. Love!

Zorro – Ah… the dashing black-clad masked outlaw who defends the people of the land. The first Zorro film appeared in 1939 and he can probably be called the original swashbuckler. He’s skilled with a sword and looks damn sexy in that mask.

Jack Sparrow – He’s deceptive and the only person he truly wants to help is himself. Both excellent qualities for a pirate, savvy? Not only is he armed with a sword and a gun with one bullet, but he’s also armed with his rapier wit and using it to get out of tough situations in lieu of fighting. Jack endears himself to us with his off-kilter manner and leaves us wondering if he’s drunk or crazy (which is probably the former since he’s concerned with the state of the rum). He’s been accused of being the worst pirate but yet no one can seem to catch him.

I know I’ve left off a bunch of swashbuckling heroes (The Three Musketeers for one) but what are some of your picks?

Michelle Miles writes her own swashbuckling heroes who make her heroines swoon. Find out more about her and her books at her website: http://www.michellemiles.net/.


  1. Hmm, I would have to suggest Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly! Very good with a gun and a fist, although his swordwork could do with some enhancing.

  2. Hi, Michelle,

    I like all the swashbucklers you mention. My favorites are Han Solo and Zorro. I saw Star Wars the weekend it was released in 1977 and fell in love with Han Solo. Before that, I loved Tyrone Power as Zorro in the old movies. In the fifties, I loved the Zorro TV show with Guy Williams. I even had a poster of Williams as Zorro on my bedroom door.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  3. Oh yeah, the aforementioned Malcolm Reynolds, Tyrone Power, Guy Williams ....Antonio Banderas' Zorro, Rick O'Connell in Mummy, and even Capt. Kirk was a swashbuckler! Oh, and for the oldies, let's not forget Douglas Fairbanks Sr.!

  4. This really brought back a lot of memories. I'm glad Bailey mentioned Rick in The Mummy films. He truly is my hero. And don't you just love Johnny Depp's swashbuckling-ness?

  5. Oh, Errol Flynn as Robin Hood was one of my favorites, but one of the most surprising leading men was Paul Henreid when he played Capt Horn in the Spanish Main. (He was Ingrid Bergman's Victor in Casablanca and tended to star in "gentler" roles, so his portrayal of a pirate was unexpected and terrific.)

    I'm also a huge fan of Han Solo and Indy and wouldn't mind either of them saving me.

    Great blogpost :)

  6. Robin

    Yes, Paul Henreid in the Spanish Main. I love that movie. He and Maureen O'Hara had such chemistry.

  7. Han Solo. Yum.

    I'd add Redford and Newman as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Which leads me to Young Guns. I have a thing for western swashbucklers. LOL.

  8. Jack Sparrow and Captian Blood are a given but I also liked Cameron Poe the former Army Ranger who had to save the day on plane filled with convicts.

  9. Great suggestions, ya'll! These are definitely ones I didn't think of. :) Thanks for stopping by to say hi!

  10. Fun post Michelle. I love swashbucklers! We need more of them! ;D


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