O’Shea Jackson, better known by his stage name Ice Cube, was, and still is, a towering figure in both the global music scene and the history of rap. Ice Cube’s transition to movies began with an unforgettable performance as Crip gang member Darin “Doughboy” Baker in John Singleton’s iconic Boyz n the Hood and his career as an actor hasn’t slowed down in the following decades.
Famed for his unwavering stare, Ice Cube has delivered some of the toughest, most stone-faced, badasses to appear on movie screens in those years. Here’s our ranking of his ten most badass movie characters to date.
10 Captain Dickson (21 Jump Street / 22 Jump Street)
Typically an anti-authority type figure, Ice Cube undergoes somewhat of a refreshing role reversal in the Jump Street movies and plays the police Captain forced to put up with the explosive shenanigans of the rule-breakers.
While mostly being the booming voice behind the desk, Captain Dickson does get into the action too. When he doesn’t look like he’s going to strangle his errant officers to death, Dickson is almost paternalistic.
9 Danny Rich (Anaconda)
From the '90s nostalgia-fest monster movie Anaconda, Danny Rich is the camera operator on board a documentary crew’s ill-fated voyage into the heart of the Amazon. The expedition is led astray into the territory of a legendarily large type of anaconda by Jon Voight’s slimy poacher, which is bad news for the characters but good news for movie fans who want to see Ice Cube kill a giant snake.
Danny is mostly a supportive rock to Jennifer Lopez’s documentary director and, after putting an ax through a super-sized anaconda’s skull, he even gets the footage that they came there to shoot.
8 Bucum (All About the Benjamins)
In All About the Benjamins, Bucum is a small-time bounty hunter with dreams of going into business for himself. He spends his days pounding the streets of Miami and chasing down low-level criminals so his tolerance level for nonsense is fairly low, even for an Ice Cube character.
After pursuing a con man into the middle of a diamond heist, Bucum sees an opportunity to elevate his status as a private detective. With the help of his target, Bucum becomes embroiled in a search for the stolen jewels and a jackpot-winning lottery ticket.
7 Trey Wallace (Torque)
From the movie Torque, Trey is the leader of a fearsome biker gang from Inglewood, California. He rules his territory with a fair, but iron, hand. When he discovers that his younger brother has been murdered, Trey sets out on an unstoppable mission for revenge, letting neither the local police or the FBI stand in his way.
Trey is so dogged in the pursuit of his target – the protagonist of the movie, who’s been framed for the murder – that he leaps his bike off a highway overpass, as well as onto, and in front of, speeding trains. All in his relentless high-speed chase.
6 Savon (Trespass)
An up-and-coming footsoldier for Ice-T’s crime kingpin in the movie Trespass, Savon is as ruthless as he is ambitious – which is extremely. When King James’ crew is caught up in a wrong-place-wrong-time standoff with two Arkansas firefighters on an illegal treasure hunt, he sees an opportunity to stir the pot and earn some serious street credit while maybe earning a little of that treasure as well. If not all of it.
Savon is a rare bad guy role for Ice Cube and he really savors it, doing a great job of portraying a villain who enjoys being a villain. Savon's heated confrontations with Ice-T’s boss character add something really special to the dynamic.
5 Vusi Madlazi (Dangerous Ground)
Forced to leave South Africa as a teenager for his work in the anti-apartheid movement, Vusi Madlazi spends the rest of his adolescence and early manhood in San Francisco before returning to his family home to bury his father. Once home, Vusi finds a South Africa still struggling with exploitation and violence as he sets out to track down his missing brother.
On his journey across the new South Africa, Vusi has to square off against neo-fascist skinheads and Ving Rhames’ big-time gangster called Muki. When Muki makes the mistake of killing Vusi’s younger brother, Vusi avenges him by sticking his family’s ceremonial spear into Muki’s gut before throwing him through his penthouse window. Ice cold.
4 Strickland (Fist Fight)
The most feared teacher in his high school, Strickland is a man so dedicated to teaching that he’ll attack a student with a fire ax just to keep law and order in the classroom. In his own words, “I don't need to be liked, I need to educate.”
Strickland is also a big believer in the redeeming nature of hand to hand fighting and the practice of never snitching. This is pretty bad news for Charlie Day’s meek teacher, who gets Strickland fired for the fire ax incident and is forced to face him in the parking lot for a bare-knuckle brawl after school.
3 James Payton (Ride Along / Ride Along 2)
The odd couple gimmick at the heart of the Ride Along movies is that Kevin Hart’s character is comedically inept and unintimidating, which makes Ice Cube’s brother-in-law character the exact opposite. Detective James Payton is the quintessential ‘loose cannon’ cop. He is trigger happy, fearless, rule-breaking and prone to causing such wanton destruction of their home city that their captain is constantly forced to shout at them about it.
Though not an unfunny character, Payton can often come off as a little too cold but serves as a perfect straight man to Hart's wilder antics.
2 James 'Desolation' Williams (Ghosts of Mars)
Frankly, the name James 'Desolation' Williams alone is enough to land a spot on this list; however, the character earns a lot of badass points by laying waste to scores of possessed Martian zombies. Williams is an outlaw character roaming the dusty, Western-like, frontier of Mars before getting stuck in the middle of a bizarre rebellion led by brutal alien spirits. Think Snake Plissken, but in space.
In a nod to director John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13, Williams has to team up with the cops to make it through his siege situation. Payton never crosses that line and becomes traditionally good, always remaining the untamable rogue who just happens to choose to do the right thing.
1 Darius Stone (xXx: State of the Union / xXx: The Return of Xander Cage)
The only man badass enough to take over an extreme sports/action/espionage franchise from Vin Diesel (before teaming up with him later down the road). Darius Stone is a former Navy SEAL who has to bust out of Leavenworth prison, where he was imprisoned for breaking the jaw of his commanding officer and saving the President from a military coup.
Part suave superspy, part indestructible superhero - Stone is a force of nature. Under the direction of Lee Tamahori, who helmed Die Another Day, Darius Stone was the closest that we’ve come to seeing Ice Cube portray James Bond.