It’s not just the ladies that have kicked ass this year. We’ve got a lot of good guys to celebrate this year too. Here are ten of our favorite men that kicked ass in 2021.
1. Cleveland “Book” Booker, Star Trek: Discovery
“I’ve oft elaborated on my love for Book in my Star Trek: Discovery reviews, but what I think really makes him kick ass in 2021 is that Book is getting help for his emotional trauma. It takes a strong person to ask for help, and Book’s strength is never more on display when he’s working through the grief he’s experiencing. You’re a good man, Cleveland Booker. We’re glad you’re in our corner.” – Ashley
2. Shang-Chi, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
“Even as a lifelong comics reader, I had a huge gap in my Marvel knowledge when it came to Shang-Chi. I am quite happy that was rectified in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Shang-Chi is a guy you want on your side. He’s loyal, kind, brave, and a great friend, wielding his powers with integrity. I ended up catching Shang-Chi in the theater three times and each viewing grew my love for Shang-Chi. Also, Shang-Chi is a man who LITERALLY kicks ass. I grin like an idiot every time I watch that bus fight, which is now my favorite Marvel fight ever. I can’t wait for the next adventure with Shang-Chi.” – Ashley
3. Malyen Oretsev, Shadow and Bone
“Our precious Mal. Oh, how we love him. The young man with the ability to track stole our hearts in season one of Shadow and Bone. What we loved so much about Mal was that he let his emotions out. Though he is this tough soldier of the First Army, he didn’t shy away from letting himself feel anything. When he lost his friends and fellow soldiers in an ambush, he cried and we cried with him. He also didn’t let anyone stop him from his mission of finding his way back to his friend and let’s face it, his love Alina. His undying love for Alina was on display full force so much so that he was willing to take on one of the most powerful grisha, General Kirigan AKA The Darkling.” – Jasmine
4. Peter Parker, Peter Parker, and Peter Parker, Spider-man: No Way Home
“I managed to stay spoiler-free before watching Spider-man: No Way Home. I even avoided all the trailers, save for a teaser that slipped in when I watched the Thanksgiving Day parade. It was therefore incredibly emotionally satisfying to watch Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield reprise their roles as Peter Parker. Watching them work together with Tom Holland’s Peter Parker was great fun. Their team-up is the stuff of Marvel legend. Here’s hoping it’s not the last we’ll see of this tremendous Trio.” – Ashley
5. Ted Lasso, Ted Lasso
“I am a recent Ted Lasso convert and I can’t help but love Ted’s relentless optimism. The 110% effort he gives in everything is admirable. However, that optimism is tempered well with a dose of realism. The real reason he kicks ass this year is the way he faces the darker, harder things in his past. It wasn’t easy for Ted to learn to ask for help, but the way he works through all that pain is incredibly admirable. That’s why he will always make my list of ‘Men Who Kick Ass.’” – Ashley
6. Roy Kent, Ted Lasso
“I was trying to limit this list to only one kick-ass man per show or film, but I simply couldn’t leave out Roy. Roy’s constant surliness is entertaining, but the real reason he kicks ass is the genuine sweetness he shows to his niece Phoebe and to Keeley. Roy works hard to be a good example to Phoebe and to be a positive male figure in her life. The way that Roy learns to care for Keeley and to be supportive of her is charming, but also a learning curve for him. He takes to it well. However, I think the greatest way he kicks ass is that he learns to love his enemies. I don’t think he and Jamie Tartt will ever be the best of friends, but the way he hugs Jamie and lets him cry after their devastating loss and the cruel mockery of Jamie’s father demonstrates his empathy. There’s no greater way to kick ass than that. I can’t wait to see how this concrete teddy bear grows next season.” – Ashley
7. Samanthan Rutherford, Star Trek: Lower Decks
Rutherford was melting my heart this season in Lower Decks. Watching him work through his memory loss was sweet, but when he backs up all his memories of Tendi in triplicate, I swooned. What really makes Rutherford kick ass though is that he kicks ass simply by being himself. He uses his skills in problem-solving to save the day in multiple episodes this season. That sweet nerdy man kicks ass in the gentlest way possible and I love him for it.” – Ashley
8. Lan Mandragoran, The Wheel of Time
“Daniel Henney graced our screens as Lan Mandragoran for the first time in 2021, and it sure was a blessing. Lan is an enthrallingly three-dimensional character. He’s initially set up in the simplest fashion, as a protector. Lan proves, however, to be far more.
He’s an extremely skilled fighter, but that’s not what defines him. Often a man of few words, his other strengths are more subtle. He’s a great supporter and his deep connection to Moiraine can be seen through little more than facial expressions.
Not everything in a sprawling fantasy narrative is rainbows and puppies. There are life and death stakes people often disagree on how to handle. Lan is not threatened by differing views. He knows exactly who he is and allows people room to exert their own agency. Ultimately, Lan is an amazing friend, something no fight scene will ever replace.” – Brandi
9. Malcolm Bright, Prodigal Son
“Man, oh man did Malcolm go through some shit in the final season of Prodigal Son. We thought things for him were hard in season one but, boy, were we wrong because season two topped them all. Having a serial killer for a father is tough and because of it Malcolm was constantly dealing with major PTSD. It was so debilitating that it affected every aspect of his life but he still managed to be one of the best criminal psychologists the NYPD ever had. In season two, he had to deal with the aftermath of helping his sister Ainsley get away with murder. That was yet another traumatic experience that sent him into a deeper spiral. We don’t know anyone who could be strong enough to endure half of the things he was faced with. Malcolm eventually got the courage to take on his own father who was the root cause of all his trauma. I don’t think anyone who was a fan of this show was surprised by the outcome. Though the show was unfortunately canceled, it ended with him finding a strength he never had before.” – Jasmine
10. Gilgamesh, Eternals
“We already told you how much we loved Gilgamesh in our list of the Moments That Broke Our Hearts but we’re talking about him again. Gilgamesh deserves to be on this list because he did kick ass and we don’t just mean in the physical sense. Gilgamesh was a huge teddy bear. He not only was a fierce and strong fighter, he was a caretaker.
When Ajak’s was ready to reprogram Thena because of her Mahd Wy’ry, Gilgamesh didn’t let it happen. He took on the responsibility of watching over her so she wouldn’t be able to hurt anyone including herself. That’s a huge responsibility. He was tasked with making sure that in the moments when she wasn’t herself, he helped her remember who she was. The fact that he didn’t give up on her when others were ready to, well, there’s nothing more kick-ass than that.” – Jasmine