They say the truest test of a man is his ability to grow and maintain facial hair. Admittedly, I have no idea who "they" are in this instance, but its obvious why they're preoccupied with what happens above and below a man's lips — it can make the difference between shame and dignity, between class and boorishness, and sometimes even good and evil. Behold the greatest mustaches, beards and other forms of facial hair that scifi, fantasy, comic books and more have to offer.
1) Sinestro, Green Lantern
For most of his comics career, Sinestro’s mustache could best be described as “a man with a van with ‘free candy’ painted on the side.” But since Geoff Johns took over, Sinestro has owned the wide split and thin triangles that make up his unique upper lip decoration, and somehow made it look both stylish and almost anti-heroic, somehow.
2) Hagrid, Harry Potter
Size isn’t everything, but it is something. And Hagrid’s massive beard does earn points for pure volume and thickness, if nothing else. Hell, an entire family of birds could nest comfortable in there… and, knowing Hagrid, they probably have.
3) Zed, Zardoz
In a world were a giant floating stone head floats around yelling “The gun is good. The penis is evil!” you need a pretty manly mustache to survive. And Zed’s mustache as the manliest thing on the entire damn planet. It’s like Burt Reynolds’ mustache in the ‘70s, but somehow even manlier, While not resembling a penis in any way, it’s somehow still the most phallic-seeming facial hair on this list.
4) Wiliam Adama, Battlestar Galactica
Being in charge of survival of the entire human race can wear on a person, which is why Bill Adama’s mustache is so perfect. It’s strong but somehow sad, full but beleaguered, as if it could give up and fall off at any moment. Adama’s mustache perfectly encapsulates not only his own situation, but the troubled status of all of humanity.
5) Batroc the Leaper, Captain America
If Batroc the Leaper does appear in Captain America 2, the chances of him having his original comic design’s facial hair — a curled black mustahce and a gigantic, bushy gray beard — is about nil. It would look completely insane on-screen. But somehow, comic Batroc pulls off the style, making it look like another unique characteristic of a man who goes around calling himself "the leaper."
6) Ming the Merciless, Flash Gordon
The Fu Manchu is a pretty distinctive style, one constantly associated with the evil Chinese character who made it famous. So it takes some serious doing to be a vaguely Asian-looking evil mastermind, wear the mustache of a definitively Asian-looking evil mastermind, and still make it your own. But that’s what Ming has done, adding volume to the Fu and tapering it into two sinister, albeit fetching, points.
7) Seneca Crane, The Hunger Games
The fashions of future Panem are a bit extreme, but you still have to have some serious facial hair skills to pull of Seneca Crane’s amazing beard. It looks like a series of fractals, that might, upon closer inspection, spin off into an infinite number of smaller, even more insane beards. It has to take some serious balls to wear this thing, even in the fashion dystopia of The Hunger Games.
8) Evil Spock, Star Trek
Goatees have been associated with evil for quite some time now, and it’s all because of one character: Evil Spock from Star Trek’s famous “Mirror, Mirror” episode. It’s not the finest of facial hairs — it’s pretty obviously stuck on with spirit gum — but it’s still so mesmerizing, so full of sinister charisma, that it effectively equated the mustache-goatee combo with evil for all time. That’s one hell of a look.
Very few people not living in the 1800s can pull off muttonchops, but Wolverine is one of them, although to be fair he was born in the 1800s. But that means he’s had the same facial hair and somehow kept it stylish for a period of at least 120 years. There’s a reason Wolverine has never needed to shave off his ‘chops, and that’s because he makes them look good, no matter the era.
10) Leonidas, 300
When Frank Miller drew 300, the tale of the 300 Spartans that held off the Persian Empire at the battle of Thermopylae, he designed the Spartans with long, straight beards that rounded at the end, much like the art found on ancient Greek pottery of the time. It was an artistic representation of beard, not anything realistic… but still one that the movie somehow trasnformed into real life perfectly. It’s not a style just anybody can wear, but if you’re ripped and walk around oiled and shirtless a great deal of the day, you might want to consider it.
11) Gendo Ikari, Evangelion
The chinstrap is a vastly underrated facial hair style, usually worn by the Amish in pop culture (and real life, I assume; I haven’t met many Amish people). But Evangelion’s Gendo Ikari’s mustache-less beard epitomizes his no-nonsense, no distractions, no-time-for-weaklings-like-his-own-son demeanor. This is the facial hair of someone who will not let anything stand in the way of his plans, not even hair on his upper lip.
12) Dum Dum Duggan, Marvel Comics
Dum Dum Duggan fought in World War II and has been kicking ass for SHIELD for most of the last 50 years. The man is at least 93 years old, and yet his mustache is just as full and vibrant as the first day he shot a Nazi. If there’s a Ron Swanson in the world of scifi, fantasy and superheroes, it’s Dum Dum Duggan.
13) Lando Calrissian, Star Wars
Can one mustache be all things to all people? Lando Calrissian proves it can. He’s a scoundrel but also a savvy businessman. A collaborator with the Empire and the leader of a floating city. A spy and a general for the Rebel Alliance. And yet his mustache suits each of these roles, one after the other, while still looking outstanding. There’s no more versatile mustache in the galaxy than Lando’s.
14) Jaime Lannister, Game of Thrones
There’s no shortage of beards in Game of Thrones, but they’re mostly standard affairs, ranging from Robert Baratheon’s broom-end to Jon Snow’s whisper-thin shadow. But now that Jaime Lannister has been captured and prevented from shaving, his beard is as phenomenal as his sword-fighting skills. Just look at it. Damn.
15) J. Jonah Jameson, Spider-Man
JJJ single-handedly took back the toothbrush mustache from Hitler. It’s true, nobody else is allowed to have one, but the fact that anyone can walk around with a toothbrush mustache and people not have people immediately think “That dude must really like Hitler!” is a miracle.
16) Saruman, Lord of the Rings
Gandalf and his soup-catcher may get all the attention, but it's Saruman’s beard that deserves the glory. Long, luxurious, bone white — it’s infinitely classier than Gandalf the Grey’s disheveled, greasy facial hair, and it’s still better than Gandalf's after he undergoes the transformation/spa treatment of “the White.” Longer, too. I guarantee there’s at least one empty Cool Ranch Doritos bag hidden in Gandalf’s beard somewhere.
17) Gaff, Blade Runner
Given Edward James Olmos’ troubled mustache in Battlestar Galactica, it would be easy to assume that all his facial hair would have the same problem. But not so, because as Olmos is a terrific actor, so is his mustache. The enigmatic but exotic Gaff in Blade Runner has a strong, wide, enigmatic and exotic mustache/soul patch combo, hinting at the secrets Gaff knows that Deckard doesn’t. It seems impossible that Adama and Gaff’s facial hair were grown by the same person, but EJO is just that good.
18) Jet Black, Cowboy Bebop
I don’t really know what to call Jet’s facial hair — a chinstrap? A chinstrap that flares out at the sides? Wolverine after his barber took way too much peyote? — but the fact that his beard somehow looks cool at all when everyone who sees him should be laughing at him is more than enough reason to put him on this list.
19) Tony Stark, Iron Man
When goatees — especially with mustaches — aren’t being worn by evil people from a parallel universe, they’re generally being worn by douchebags. Tony Stark should be a douchebag, because he’s rich, self-centered, and completely spoiled... and yet his incredibly sharp goatee keeps him firmly on the side of stylish. This goatee somehow radiates the class and heroism inside Tony Stark, much like the Arc reactor in his chest radiates power. It might not be the only reason mass audiences have embraced Iron Man and made him one of Marvel’s top-tier characters, but it's certainly helped.
20) William Riker, Star Trek: Then Next Generation
In all the galaxy, there can be only one best of anything. Is there any doubt that Riker would be the best at facial hair? The perfect shape. The perfect fullness. No too long, not too short. Manly, but not too imposing; friendly, but not Santa Claus-like. If there is a platonic ideal of beards, it's what Will Riker sees every morning when he looks into the mirror. No wonder he’s so smug.