Pictured above: Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951).
You’re sitting home lonely and entertainment starved, and I’ve got just what you need: beefcake movies! (And a couple of TV shows, too.) Bare-chested males have paraded around the screen for years, in a nod to their beauty—and they’re all good actors, as well—so why not enjoy the fruits of their looms? May the pectoral parade begin.
American Gigolo (1980)
The neo-crime drama about the travails of a hustler is a sleek but hollow exercise best remembered for Richard Gere’s unbuttoned shirt—which is good enough to make it a classic.
Charlton Heston was a gun-toting extremist, but damn, his chariot was on fire. He and Stephen Boyd are openly de-gorgeous in this Oscar-winning gladiator epic—and let me also recommend Heston’s torso in The Ten Commandments (1956) and Planet of the Apes (1968). Runners-up include the Spartacus movie (1960) and TV series (2010-13); Clash of the Titans with Harry Hamlin (1981); and any “sword and sandal” spectacle, particularly those with Steve Reeves.
Fight Club (1999)
The rough and ready David Fincher film is all about Project Mayhem, Fight Clubs, and various subversive acts, but all that lingers is the iconic sight of shirtless Brad Pitt looking like a Lean Cuisine. Two decades later, in last year’s Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood (2019), Brad proved that he still doesn’t have a shirt, but he’s still got it. And now he’s got an Oscar, too.
A football pro turned actor, Williamson looked extremely comfortable in his boxing shorts in Hammer.
In this TV movie, Blair Underwood plays himself, wearing just tighty whities and getting on his knees to romance Alfre Woodard in a fantasy. It’s a lot of people’s fantasy, actually.
King of Kings (1961)
Jeffrey Hunter was a hunky son of God—in fact, critics dubbed him “teenage Jesus” (though he was in his 30s)—as he nobly suffered in a loincloth. Is it sacrilegious to say that an actor playing Jesus looked fine? Well, I’m going to hell anyway, so let me also refer you to Max von Sydow (The Greatest Story Ever Told ), Ted Neeley (Jesus Christ Superstar ), Willem Dafoe (The Last Temptation of Christ ), and Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ ), among many other holy hotties.
Living Out Loud (1998)
In this romantic comedy starring Holly Hunter and Danny DeVito, dimpled Eddie Cibrian played the Masseur who is alternately seen in a towel and undies. The word “adorbs” probably started around this time.
Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon (1998)
Future 007 Daniel Craig played the ex small-time criminal who gets involved with British painter Francis Bacon (Derek Jacobi). Always comfortable in his own skin, Craig truly brought home the Bacon.
Magic Mike (2012)
I had a dream that I was seeing Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Alex Pettyfer, Joe Manganiello, and Matthew McConaughey all stripping—and it turned out it was really happening! This movie required more waxing than an SUV’s lube job, and it’s so much fun to watch, I always try to tip the screen.
The Naked Prey (1965)
I caught this raw drama on TV as an adolescent and was mesmerized by the sight of Cornel Wilde (who also directed) running around in a hint of cloth as he was hunted down by African natives. I always used to pray that Prey would come on again.
As an ex-cop trying to clear his name, Lorenzo Lamas usually wore just a leather vest on his bare chest or not even that. Vengeance has never been so pretty.
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Whether his muscle tee is sweaty or ripped or both, Brando makes his brute of a Stanley look as good as his personality is toxic. Runner-up: William Holden in From Here To Eternity (1953). I always wanted to be Deborah Kerr.
With just a swatch of fabric and a piece of rope, this old story always has me going, “You Tarzan. Me available.” Screen Tarzans have included Buster Crabbe, Johnny Weissmuller, Lex Barker, Gordon Scott, and Miles O’Keeffe (plus Ron Ely on TV). They all looked pretty good considering the lack of beauty and hygiene products in the jungle.
It’s Persia versus Sparta in 480 BC, and the winner is…Gerard Butler!
As a heroin addict who mercifully can’t be bothered to find any clothing a lot of the time, Joe Dallessandro ushered in the 1970s with edgy hotness. Paul Morrissey directed this Andy Warhol film, co-starring Holly Woodlawn.