Cinema is an institution of desire, aspiration, and idealism.
It’s a place where ordinary people can go to encounter life through a different lens and get a perspective that they might never experience.
Hollywood is a breeding ground for stardom, fame, and fortune. Better yet, it provides us with classic movie characters that serve as status symbols.
They’re icons – forever immortalized on the golden screen.
Notable male film characters have epitomized what it means to be a gentleman. Their style, demeanor, and attitude make them timeless and captivating.
This list of classic movie characters includes some less-than-obvious choices for a “Famous Gentleman” list. But dive a little deeper into their attributes and hidden qualities. You’ll see they satisfy all of the requirements – and that they’re worth imitating.
It could be the classic representation by Robert Redford or the modern vision portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio.
Either way, Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby exudes all the qualities of a gentleman.
A war hero, a successful businessman, a romantic. Jay Gatsby checks all the boxes.
His mysterious background, lavish lifestyle, charismatic demeanor, and unscathed candor combine to form a recipe of perfection to those who vaguely know him.
The illusion he injects into his lifestyle keeps people at a safe distance. And it adds to the mystery of his persona.
His style alone is exquisite. But the way he wears his confidence is what speaks volumes about his place in life – and his desire to get what he wants.
Jay Gatsby is a style icon for the ordinary man. No matter how lavish his clothes, he wears them with confidence.
He asserts himself and his presence, giving off an enticing charm. It’s in everything – from his smile to his mannerisms, to his way of making you feel important no matter who you are.
You can become a Jay Gatsby of today’s society. His relatable and charismatic nature stamp his likeness as a timeless gentleman of cinema.
Be Gatsby: Imitate his attractive and respectful style of interpersonal contact with others.
There’s something alluring about a self-made man who builds a successful empire.
Marlon Brando portrays Vito Corleone in The Godfather and gives a remarkable performance as an iconic crime family boss.
Some of his tactics weren’t ethical or legal. But Vito Corleone established himself as a powerful man by providing services and performing favors to family and friends.
He leveraged resources to deconstruct authority, helping those around to benefit and break ceilings.
Above all else, he is a man who is respected by friends, family, persons of power – and even enemies.
Throughout his life and his reign over the Corleone family, Vito manages to perfectly walk along the line between fear and respect.
His gentlemanly qualities might not lie in the way that he dresses, but the way that he acts and carries himself. Vito Corleone is the pinnacle of power and the maintenance of one’s position in society.
Obviously, you don’t have to become the head of a large crime family. But you do have the power to perform services and favors to your loved ones.
Young Vito Corleone didn’t start out his adult life knowing that it would blossom into an illustrious tenure as a successful mob boss. He started out as a young immigrant with a dream.
His drive, loyalty, and respect for others was reciprocated. It’s what turned him into one of the most powerful men of his day. Even as a known crime boss, politicians and authority figures respect him and continue to seek his services.
Be Vito Corleone: Earn power, respect, and loyalty by being a reliable friend.
A large part of a gentleman’s persona is his belief system. He stands up for what he believes in and doesn’t falter in his position.
No matter what consequences or judgement might come his way, a gentleman who stands firm for what he believes in deserves recognition and admiration.
Atticus Finch, portrayed by Gregory Peck in the American Classic To Kill a Mockingbird, is a white lawyer who defends a black man accused of rape.
Atticus doesn’t listen to the naysayers who pass immediate judgement because of his client’s race. He defends him because he knows the man is innocent.
He is an intelligent and accomplished lawyer. He’s a single father who cares deeply for those around him.
He carries himself in a way that gives little attention or time to opinions that don’t matter, but at the same time he treats everyone with the respect they deserve.
A well-kept southern gentleman, Atticus Finch embodies what it means to have values and manners in a place where that might go against the grain.
We’re a point in history where viewpoints and beliefs are constantly declared. It happens on social media, at work, and in relationships.
There are constant opportunities to stand up for your beliefs and make them known. The important thing is to do so in moderation.
Atticus Finch held his beliefs firm in a way that wasn’t invasive or outspoken, but stoic and reserved.
He never faltered or shied away from sharing his point of view, but he also never went out of his way to impose his stance on others.
By adopting this approach, you will be respected no matter your political stance, opinion, or persuasion.
Be Atticus Finch: Stand your ground on your beliefs without forcing them on others.
“Gentleman” might not be the first word that comes to mind when thinking about Jim Stark.
But the legendary status of the actor that plays him, James Dean, makes this Rebel Without a Cause character a gentleman. One for rebellious teenagers to look up to.
He has style with the iconic red jacket.
He’s charismatic and charming enough to attract the popular girl in school.
He’s caring – as exemplified by his affection and love for his parents. You can see it in the way they treat him – even though it’s a bit dysfunctional.
His flaws might come out when put under pressure, but they are only brought about by the environment that his parents create at home.
He is polite and genuine with family, friends, authorities, and peers. Although he sometimes finds himself in trouble, it’s difficult to prove that he has a bad bone in his body.
The hair, the red jacket, and the tough guy attitude might not go far or correlate well with today’s gentleman. But it can certainly have its place if applied in alternate ways.
If anything, Jim Stark lived life on the edge. He sought to enjoy the moment, going after what he wanted.
He saw a pretty girl so he offered her a ride. He saw that his father was subservient to his mother so he told him to stand up for himself.
He was straightforward with his thinking. But more importantly, he was honest in a compassionate way and unafraid to speak his mind.
Be Jim Stark: Know the line between honest and brash, speaking your mind without hurting the people around you.
A convicted felon who constantly violates parole and makes his living as a con-artist might not be the typical choice for a list about gentlemen in cinema.
But Danny Ocean makes the list by exuding a comforting sense of confidence.
On paper, Danny Ocean – played by George Clooney in Ocean’s Eleven and its sequels – seems like an absolute nut case who should spend the rest of his life in jail.
But the way his accomplices blindly follow his lead give off a reassuring tone. It supports the notion that he knows what he’s doing.
Although incredibly spiteful and a criminal, Ocean’s manners and confidence couple together to produce an end-product that is admirable – in a twisted sort of way.
His desire to carry on these jobs isn’t solely because of the money, either. It’s about love and his pursuit of bliss with the woman he most admires.
He’s a gentleman who places a strong emphasis on love and his drive to find happiness with another.
Ocean is a man who’s dedicated to the woman he loves. He’s a leader, not a follower. He’s skilled at what he does because he’s put a lot of effort into it – even if his skills are unethical and illegal.
He knows what he wants and always keeps that desire in focus. Successful people get what they want because they have the desire and they let it drive them. It influences their decisions and actions.
Danny Ocean is driven by love. Even though all signs point to moving on and working toward something different, he keeps pushing for (and ultimately gets) what he wants.
Be Danny Ocean: Stay motivated to reach your goals. You’ll win others’ confidence and create a sense of belonging in any situation.
This gentleman might be an outlier, simply because Crazy, Stupid Love isn’t an iconic movie by any stretch of the imagination.
But Ryan Gosling gives Jacob Palmer just the right amount of aloofness to consider him a gentleman.
Similar to Jay Gatsby, Palmer is a mysterious and seemingly wealthy individual whose sole purpose, at least in the beginning of the film, is to go to bars and pick up women.
That might qualify him as a player, but his real gentlemanly redeeming qualities come out when he helps out an older gentleman who is down on his luck.
Jacob teaches this man to dress, talk to women, and carry himself better. It turns him into a decent, attractive man, rather than the middle-aged average-joe that he was.
Style? Jacob has it.
Charisma? Jacob has it.
Success? Jacob ostensibly has it.
These three typical qualities of a gentleman land Jacob Palmer on this list. It’s time to appreciate the often overlooked qualities of a modern-day gentleman.
It’s easy to mimic and imitate the actions and stylings of Jacob Palmer. He’s probably the most relatable gentleman on the list. Part of his character is devoted to helping an average guy become a ladies’ man.
Check out his casual attitude toward those around him. Look at the sense of ease that surrounds him in a bar or while lounging at home.
Be Jacob Palmer: Emulate his style, success, and demeanor – he truly makes being a gentleman look effortless.
A gentleman always saves the best for last, right? A list detailing famous gentlemen in cinema wouldn’t be complete without James Bond.
Whether it’s Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig, or other of the many men who have portrayed this international icon, James Bond might be the ultimate gentleman.
His skill, aptitude, style, charisma, and presence are always in full force. That’s regardless of if he’s taking out a dangerous terrorist or seducing a femme fatale.
His style is impeccable. He can rock a night out in a tuxedo or take a break from saving the world on the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea just as easily.
His charisma and magnetic attraction with women are almost too good to be true. Yet his constant sexual desire is never viewed as sleazy or overzealous.
The name that’s synonymous with expensive cars, five-star treatment, and romantic charisma deserves the top spot on any gentleman’s aspirational list.
It’s almost unthinkable to try to imitate the suave candor that Bond exhibits. He’s just that smooth.
He is effortlessly invincible in attracting women, undefeated in facing his enemies, and candidly friendly in talking to acquaintances and colleagues.
It’s almost certain that you won’t ever get a license to kill. But you can still replicate Bond in other ways.
His smile goes a long way, especially with women. His confidence beams through his actions and his mannerisms, and he always insists on making the most of his situation.
You may never be in a life or death situation – like Bond has so many times. But he gets through it on more than skill alone. He survives because of his perseverance.
Remember, the only thing worse than a gentleman who fails is a gentleman who stops trying.
Be James Bond: Develop confidence that shines through everything else – your style, your speech, and the way you react under pressure.
Create Your Own Definition of “Gentleman”
These seven men might not outwardly scream “Gentleman” at first thought. But a peak into their personalities and beliefs shows they are.
Holding all else equal, these seven classic movie characters have one thing in common: they offer a fine set of qualities and styles worthy of imitation.
Take Gatsby’s style, Corleone’s drive, Finch’s respect, Stark’s compassion, Ocean’s desire, Palmer’s casual attitude, Bond’s charisma… and what do you get?
The pinnacle of being a gentleman.
It’s no small feat, but it’s attainable. There’s no one mould that every man needs to follow.
There is no singular definition of being a gentleman – it’s as fluid as you want it to be.
Carry yourself with confidence, stand up for your passions and drives, and the rest will fall into place.