Liam Neeson Holding A Pistol: A History Of Our Most Popular Poster Trend

Liam Neeson is a solid actor and (as far as I can tell) an even solider dude. He’s been more or less an A-lister since the early 90s, receiving a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Schindler’s List in 1993, and continuing to play lead and support in awardsy movies throughout the nineties and early 2000s, including symbols of gaelic pride both Scottish and Irish (Rob Roy and Michael Collins). His shift towards action was gradual, going from a wise old soldier in Michael Collins and the Star Wars movies to a submarine captain in K-19.

What was the movie that solidified producers’ belief that we liked Liam Neeson best when he was kicking ass? Was it Priest in Gangs of New York? Ra’s Al Ghul in The Dark Knight? It’s hard to say, but Taken in 2008 marked a clear turning point: not only did producers like him best as an ass-kicking action star, they realized that literally all they needed to sell a film was Liam Neeson and a gun. From then on, he would do almost nothing but shoot shadowy ethnic types in the face. And so a poster trend was born, that seven years later shows no sign of slowing down.

Did you know? The last six major releases Liam Neeson has starred in all have a poster featuring Liam Neeson holding a pistol.

Gun Shy (2000) is clearly an anachronism, something of a historical curio, in that the poster has five pistols and Liam Neeson, but Liam Neeson isn’t holding any of the pistols. Clearly they didn’t know what they were doing. Probably why no one remembers Gun Shy.


Michael Collins was definitely getting warmer. Not quite there yet though. Too much going on, he was using the gun more as a speech prop, and he was playing a character other than “Liam Neeson.”

Taken was when they figured it all out. Who knew the guy from Schindler’s List could be marketed the same way as Steven Seagal?

This is probably the seminal “Liam Neeson holding a pistol” poster. Just Liam Neeson, holding a pistol, delivering a soliloquy about murder. I don’t think the trend starts without the soliloquy, and from here on out, the gun is there partly just to remind you of it.

They gave him a funny gun in the Asian version.

The A-Team doesn’t really count, since Neeson is playing a character who existed before Neeson played him, but even then they knew not to mess with the “Liam-Neeson-holding-a-gun” formula.

Unknown (2011) is the first non-Taken Taken movie. Director Jaume Collet-Serra, who got his start with the secret dwarf hooker movie, would eventually find his calling in these, directing Non-Stop and Run All Night.

Someone took something of Liam Neeson’s and he has to get it back, with a gun. That’s your unstoppable formula right there.

Taken 2 presents the concept at its simplest, where you literally don’t need anything but Liam Neeson holding a pistol and the title of the movie.

Who even holds a gun like that?? This looks like a J. Peterman ad for the “Urban Trenchcoat.”

This version squeezes in two Liams Neeson plus his daughter in a bra. That’s just good postering.

I’ll be honest, this is probably my favorite of all the Liam-Neeson-Holding-A-Pistol posters. It flips the whole concept on its side! It’s like he’s firing at God for constantly taking things from him.

The concept is now so pervasive that it has to be parodied even when Liam Neeson does a comedy. Notice how much more prominent the pistol is (and he has two!) than the rope, even though the whole thing is meant as a hanging pun.

Death? Nah, you should be afraid of Liam Neeson holding a pistol.

“Make sure we shoot Liam Neeson holding a pistol from every angle. As if to say, ‘we are offering an entirely new perspective on Liam Neeson holding a pistol.'”

This is not only the ultimate Liam Neeson Pistol poster, it might be the ultimate movie poster. Number used as a letter, guy holding gun, tagline that’s a lie, and a diagonal for absolutely no reason. It’s so bad it’s good, which is perfect for Taken 3. If only they’d had the balls to actually call it Tak3n.

The album cover for Liam Neeson’s biggest album, All Eyez on Me.

“I pledge allegiance to my gun, one nation, under killing, with vengeance and exit wounds for all.”

Which finally brings us to Run All Night, which opens tomorrow. I saw it, it’s terrible (review coming soon), but say what you will about it, it definitely has Liam Neeson holding a pistol.

[all posters via IMPA]