History’s 50 Incredible Badasses You Should Know About

11Ranulph Fiennes

British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes has run 7 marathons on 7 consecutive days in 7 continents. He did this after he had a heart attack and a bypass operation. He has also hacked off his own frostbitten fingers with a power tool, discovered the lost city of Ubar, and in his 60s surmounted the peak of Everest.

12Adrian Carton de Wiart

British soldier Adrian Carton de Wiart was a veteran of four wars. He survived separate instances of being shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip, and ear. He survived two plane crashes; tunneled out of a POW camp; and bit off his own fingers when a doctor refused to amputate them. He later said, “Frankly I had enjoyed the war.”

13Shayna Richardson

In 2005, a woman named Shayna Richardson, performing her first solo skydive jump survived a parachute malfunction which caused her to slam face first into a parking lot at 50 MPH. During surgery, doctors discovered she was pregnant. She made a full recovery and the baby was not affected in any way by the accident.

14Hugh Thompson

During the Vietnam War, a helicopter pilot named Hugh Thompson landed his helicopter in the line of fire to confront and stop American troops who had by that point killed close to 500 unarmed civilians in the My Lai Massacre. He even threatened to fire on his own troops if they continued their attack. He was labeled a traitor by Congress and ordered not to speak about the event.

15Iqbal Masih

Iqbal Masih was a kid in Pakistan who was sold into bondage. At the age of 10, he escaped the shackles of bonded labor, freed over 3000 children who were trapped in the same carpet factory he worked in. He was responsible for bringing down Pakistan's carpet exports by $34 million and was therefore murdered in 1995 at the age of 13.

16Miyamoto Musashi

Miyamoto Musashi was a 17th-century Japanese swordsman. He had such faith in his own swordsmanship that he used a wooden sword regardless of the foe's weapon. He twice arrived late to duels and defeated both opponents. Upon his next duel, he arrived early and ambushed the force that was assembling to ambush him. He is also said to have killed an opponent with a sword that legend says he carved from an oar.

17Cher Ami

During WW1, a homing pigeon named Cher Ami was awarded the Croix de Guerre for its service. The pigeon saved 194 men by continuing her flight to deliver an S.O.S. message despite having been shot through the breast, blinded in one eye, covered in blood and with a leg hanging only by a tendon.

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189/11 Fighter Jets

On 9/11, after both the towers were hit, some jet fighters took to the air without any live ammunition knowing that to prevent the hijackers from striking anymore intended targets, the pilots might have to intercept and crash their fighters into the hijacked planes, ejecting at the last moment.

19Nicholas Winton

In 1939, a stockbroker named Nicholas Winton brought 669 Czechoslovakian Jewish children to England on the eve of Second World War, saving their lives. He refused to take credit for his deed until his wife found a scrapbook of the children that he saved and gave it to the BBC. He died in 2015 at the age of 106.

20Chuck Yeager

Two nights before he broke the sound barrier, Chuck Yeager fell off a horse and broke his ribs. He didn't tell anyone because he didn't want to be taken off the mission. He had a local veterinarian tape him up.


  1. It’s a shame those who have not killed, mamed, blown up or murdered but instead found ways of peace to resolve conflict (and there are many) are not considered “bad ass.” Although all these men and women were brave and the ones who saved lives rather than just take them truly bad ass it would be refreshing to promote those who chose nonviolence to resolve conflict rather than those who instead chose to kill. Maybe it’s just me.

  2. That’s not fair. Wang Weilin stood up against 4 tanks at 19 years old after watching over 10,000 people, his friends, coworkers, and peaceful protestors, get literally slaughtered in Tiananmen Square. All he was holding was shopping bags, and all he did was talk. No one will ever forget “Tank Man”. He knew he would be killed (no one knows what happened to him), he knew he wouldn’t be able to stop the slaughter. He didn’t even think he’d be remembered considering the Chinese government did everything they could to prevent anyone from ever finding out about him or Tiananmen.

    He’s every bit as badass as these guys, but that doesn’t make them any less badass.

  3. Consider for a moment that three American conscientious objectors have received the Medal of Honor. The movie, Hacksaw Ridge, is about the heroics of one of them, Desmond Doss. The other two conscientious objector Medal of Honor recipients are Thomas W. Bennet and Joseph G. LaPointe. Doss received his award for his actions during World War II; Bennet and LaPointe received their awards for their sacrifices in Vietnam (they both were killed in action). Were they cowards because they refused to fight? On the contrary, they were heroes before their cited heroics as they continued in their faith despite abuse and dedicated their lives to their medical missions.

  4. Men who save lives through peace efforts or prevent future lives from being lost are every bit as “bad asses” as men who killed to save lives. Different methods, same results. You can’t have good without bad, nor bad without good.


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