Badass Movie Tattoos – Part I

These past few months, many of us have had the opportunity of watching (or, for that matter, re-watching) a lot of movies. And even as countries re-open and we will be able to sit in pubs and cafes once more, it may take a while before we are out and about as freely and carelessly as before. So, what better than a little movie inspiration in the name of the ink that has adorned the screen?

John Wick

Generally considered some of the more successful tattoos in movie history, Keanu Reeves’ neo-noir assassin with a heart sports some very impactful ink. He has ‘Fortis Fortuna Aduaivt’ written across the top of his back, which translates to ‘Fortune favours the bold.’ The motto is often used by military regiments, including one in Hawaii, from where Keanu’s father traces his heritage.

However, the spelling of the Latin is not the same as — favoured, by the military, but an old-republic version. This gave rise speculation whether or not the tattoo actually symbolised some prior military affiliation. The matter has since been put to rest through the director’s commentary. John Wick did not serve in the marine corps. Rather, he was raised from an early age in the Russian underworld, which explains some of his other, Russian prison-style tattoos. 


Probably some of the most interesting tattoos ever in regard to how they weave into the plot. In Christopher Nolan’s classic from 2000, Guy Pierce plays Leonard Shelby, an insurance investigator who suffers from short-term memory loss. He gets multiple tattoos to help him remember that he needs to find his wife’s killer. The most prominent one written in large font diagonally across his torso says ‘Find him and kill him,’ whereas other smaller ones state facts about the crime and clues to the murderer’s identity.


Wesley Snipes tattoos as the MARVEL comic superhero are potentially responsible for the thick visible tribal style ink of the late 1990s and early 2000s. We also get more and new ink as the series progresses. Come Blade: Trinity, the Dhampir (a human with vampire strengths but not their weaknesses) has added tattooed sideburns that extend from the tattoo wrapping around his neck and head down onto his face.


We’ll round out the first installment in badass movie tattoos with some of the few really cool female screen tats can think of. (We’ll talk about the dragon one next round) Filmmakers really need to get more ink on ladies on camera. Anyway, Angelina Jolie’s character Fox in Wanted from 2008 bears both the actress’ own tattoos and some added body art. There is some hand poke style adorning her back above Angelina’s own sak yant tiger. The actress was reportedly very happy not to have to cover up her own pieces during filming.

The character also has the words TOIL and TEARS in all caps on the inside of her upper arms upside down so that they read the right way up when she puts her hands behind her head. The words are inspired by a speech by Sir Winston Churchill on the day he took office in 1940.