French filmmaker Luc Besson is a bit of an underappreciated titan of the film industry, and even if you're not aware of it you've almost certainly seen a movie or two that was directed or at least penned by the cinematic powerhouse. Besson is particularly skilled when it comes to creating unique science fiction and action films, so it comes as no real surprise that most of the films that he has written/directed feature some seriously memorable badass characters.
But in a directing career that began in the 1980s, which of his characters are the absolute tip-top badass characters from Besson's entire body of work? These characters run the gamut from heroes to villains and superhumans to average Joes, but one thing they all have in common is they're not people that any sane person would want to be trifling with. So, if you want to know the top ten most badass characters from Luc Besson's films then here they are, ranked.
10 The Man - The Last Combat
Most casual fans of Luc Besson might not be familiar with his first foray into feature film making, and honestly his bizarre post-apocalyptic silent film The Last Combat is definitely not going to be everyone's cup of tea. But the badassery of the film's lead character only referred to as "the man", is undeniable.
The man manages to navigate a lonely wasteland where the environment and the people around him are hostile and dangerous, and seems to cope with absurdities such as fish and rocks raining down from the sky about as well as you could expect anyone to. It's an incredibly intriguing art film and its lead character is a completely the off the wall hero.
9 Korben Dallas - The Fifth Element
If you're looking to immediately establish a film character as a badass, then casting Bruce Willis in the role isn't a bad place to start. Although The Fifth Element's Korben Dallas is introduced as a mere cab driver, we soon discover that he's a former special forces agent who is not someone you want to be messing with.
Although he gets drawn into an interstellar battle between the forces of good and evil when it literally crashes into his cab, he manages to deal with the situation better than most would. Aside from snagging himself the coolest girlfriend in the galaxy, he manages to play an integral role in defeating the greatest threat the world has ever seen.
8 Norman Stansfield - The Professional
Although most of Besson's most memorable badasses are the heroes of his films, he manages to make many of his villains into very formidable badasses themselves. Besson's most memorable villain is most likely Norman Stansfield, the drug abusing, corrupt DEA agent who murders Mathilda Lando's family and becomes the object of Mathilda and Leon's ire throughout his film, The Professional.
The character on his own is vile, and Gary Oldman's electric performance really takes Stansfield to the next level. Luckily he gets his comeuppance in the end, but his enthusiastic execution of Mathilda's family (which includes women and children) is one of the most memorable scenes in Luc Besson's entire body of work.
7 Victor - La Femme Nikita
Shadowy assassins seem to be a particularly beloved character type for Luc Besson, and although the character Victor only has a relatively brief supporting role in his film La Femme Nikita it's an inspired and memorable character that laid the groundwork for one of Besson's most iconic characters of all time.
When Nikita's mission doesn't go to according to plan, the government agency that controls her sends in Victor, their best "cleaner", to clean up Nikita's mess. Victor (played by one of Besson's favorite collaborators, Jean Reno) is a character with a lot of impact, and Besson felt that there was so much potential behind this character idea that it eventually became the basis for another one of his films, The Professional.
6 Lucy - Lucy
Lucy Miller, the lead character of Luc Besson's sci-fi action film Lucy, is definitely the kind of character that lives in Luc Besson's wheelhouse, a beautiful woman who is (or rather becomes) way more than meets the eye.
At the start of her story, Lucy is unwillingly thrust into the role of a mule for a very unusual drug, and when our heroine runs into trouble during her travels the drugs (which have been sewn into her torso) bust open and essentially give her superpowers. Eventually, Lucy's power grows so much that she completely transcends humanity, but she sure manages to kick ass and take names on her way there.
5 Mathilda Lando - The Professional
When most people rack their brains for the most badass characters they can think of, a 12-year-old girl isn't typically the first character that springs to mind. But The Professional's Mathilda Lando is definitely not your average middle schooler. After Mathilda's entire family is murdered by a corrupt DEA agent she manages to win over her hit man neighbor, who not only becomes like a surrogate father to herb but actually agrees to teach her the "family business."
Mathilda's need for revenge becomes the driving force behind the story, and although she obviously has the help of an even bigger badass she deserves a lot of credit for her take no prisoners attitude and her ultimate victory over the film's villain.
4 Leeloo - The Fifth Element
As a director, Luc Besson is a big fan of using the same actors in multiple performances, which is how Ukranian actress Milla Jovovich managed to score back to back entries on this list of his baddest badasses. And while Leeloo of The Fifth Element is most definitely one of the good guys, she is also one of the strongest and most capable characters in Besson's entire body of work.
Leeloo appears like a normal (or you know, exceptionally beautiful and brilliant) human but is, in fact, the titular fifth element, and in her first few days of life she manages to learn how to speak, learn the entirety of human history, fall in love, pummel a never-ending stream of baddies, and handily destroys the greatest evil the world has ever known.
3 Joan of Arc - The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc
When most people envision Joan of Arc they imagine a heroic religious martyr, but when Luc decided to tackle the story of the beloved saint he decided to make her decidedly unsaintly. Besson's version of Joan seems to straddle the lines of religious faith and zealotry, heroism and bloodthirst, and divinity and insanity.
It's a familiar story told in an unfamiliar way, and Besson's writing and directing combined with the visceral intensity of Milla Jovovich's acting performance makes the version of Joan of Arc that we see in The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc one of the auteur's most memorable, intriguing, and enduring badasses.
2 Nikita - La Femme Nikita
It's pretty rare to see a movie character that can impact media for literally decades after they make their debut, but Luc Besson managed this unusual achievement with his heroine Nikita from La Femme Nikita.
Besson seems to have a knack for writing some really memorable murderers, and the petty criminal turned government assassin Nikita is arguably one of Besson's most well known and well-loved characters (even for people who never saw the original film). La Femme Nikita inspired not one but two TV shows, a late 90's TV show of the same name, and the more recent installment Nikita on the CW.
1 Leon - The Professional
It should come as no surprise that Luc Besson's most badass character is played by his favorite actor, Jean Reno, but the character Leon in The Professional really goes above and beyond any typical audience expectations. The Professional is easily one of Besson's best films, and this illiterate assassin is a memorable and ridiculously badass hero.
Somehow Leon's adventures in teaching a tweenage girl the fine art of murder manage to be sweet and endearing, and the grand finale of The Professional that features Leon taking out dozens of police officers with little more than some guns (and a particularly well-timed grenade) is unforgettable and completely insane.