Liam Neeson

Actors in their late 50s normally veer toward character actor roles as they enter the "mature" stage of their careers. Not Liam Neeson. He decided to jump into action movies when he teamed up with Luc Besson and made Taken. Anyone who has seen the movie can attest to how much ass he kicked and how he delivered this unforgettable threat in that Irish brogue:

"If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you."

And well, that is exactly what he goes and does. Taken made so much cash at the box office that Neeson came back and made Taken 2, which has cleaned up at the box office this fall ($50 million in its first weekend alone—nothing wimpy about that, right?)

Remember, Neeson was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in the lead role in Schindler's List and has played Alfred Kinsey and Michael Collins in a long and distinguished career.

To go bad-ass—and so bad-ass—at that stage of his career is hugely impressive. Not only that, but Neeson, now 60, turned up on Ellen this fall and literally stripped down to his knickers on the comedienne's show (and didn't care that he wasn't in the best shape of his life) to earn $20,000 for breast cancer research. That is even more bad-ass, check it out below:


Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Remember that goofy kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun

Who would have thought that he would grow up to become such a hardcore action star? After a long absence from acting when 3rd Rock wrapped, Gordon-Levitt moved to the big screen. His breakout movies was the rom-com 500 Days of Summer (guys who have seen this probably were dragged there screaming by their better halves).

However, in 2010, Gordon-Levitt got into action mode when he starred alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception, where he had one of the best, craziest, gravity-defying fight scenes in movie history. Still, no one could have predicted his metamorphosis in Looper. He plays a younger version of Bruce Willis (who got his big acting break in Moonlighting, lest we forget). Gordon-Levitt, who holds his own in the movie, can now look forward to more badass roles after this performance. 

Kate Beckinsale

How did this English Rose rose go from playing Hero in 1993's Shakespeare adaptation Much Ado About Nothing…

…to an ass-kicking, werewolf-killing vampire in four Underworld moves, and appearing in the recent remake of Total Recall? We don't now either, but we're glad she did. Never has an actress who was famous for starring in a John Cusack romantic comedy been able to make such a seamless switch to young fanboy action movie idol.

Edward Norton

An actor's actor, Norton made his breakthrough when he played a weedy psychopath in Primal Fear, exhibit A (above).

Since then, he has gone on to play cub scout leaders, a lawyer for Larry Flint, a greasy, cheating card sharp and a lovesick, singing sap in Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You. But along the way, he made two movies that redefined his image into a bad-ass—heck, one of them arguably redefined the entire definition of a "bad-ass." In 1998, he bulked up tp play a terrifying, head-on-curb-stomping neo-Nazi in American History X. The following year, starred alongside Brad Pitt in the cult classic Fight Club, where he got to do what many of us have only dreamed of—pound Jared Leto's pretty face into a bloody pulp.

Christian Bale

It's hard to picture Christian Bale as anything but a bad-ass after starring as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho and taking on the title role in The Dark Knight trilogy, but yes, that is Bale above in his first role as Jamie Graham in Empire of the Sun back in 1987. In the years following his big screen debut, the Welsh-born actor went on to develop his acting talents in Swing Kids, Little Women and Portrait of a Lady, as well as two Shakespeare plays adapted for the big screen (Henry V and A Midsummer Night's Dream). Decidedly not bad-ass.

Then came American Psycho and everything changed. This role catapulted him into the big time, and Bale would go on to play Batman, John Conner, an emaciated Machinist, an Oscar-Winning former boxer/addict in The Fighter and many more whacked-out characters. Bad-ass, we most definitely think so.

Just look at the body transformation he made for The Machinist in 2004 (he lost 63 pounds, then put 40 pounds of muscle back on his frame to make his debut as Batman in 2005):