Two years ago, I had the honor of meeting Burt Reynolds at an annual Florida college football roast, at which he was the guest of honor to celebrate his legacy as a Florida State Seminole. I was part of a panel of roasters that made cheesy jokes about each other’s schools, like how all Florida Gators players go from wearing orange at the Swamp to orange in prison, and I had no clue that Reynolds was going to be there until I took my seat on the stage and stared at him for 10 minutes, all the while thinking, “That’s Burt-f*cking-Reynolds, man.” When it came time to speak and tell my dumb jokes, like how the only jewelry UF players have seen since Urban Meyer left locks around their wrists, there was no way in hell I was going to make fun of Reynolds like the other roasters did. “He’s Gator, you guys… the man’s a f*cking legend,” I told the room.
After the event had wrapped up, a line formed to take pictures with Reynolds, and finally my friends and I had reached him for a group shot. He shook my hand and told me he thought I was funny, which could have been a lie, but it still worked in making me feel awesome. Then, he told me something that will never be topped by any celebrity that I will ever meet in my lifetime: “That last woman I took a photo with thanked me for all the orgasms.” I died.
Today, we celebrate the 79th birthday of one of the most iconic actors of any generation, as Reynolds was never a master thespian or an annual contender for the top acting awards, but when you hear his name, you certainly think of him as one of the coolest men in show business history. Sure, Reynolds has fallen on hard times in recent years, as both his health and finances have been top stories in the news, but even if you want to make fun of him for losing his money, just know that you will never in your life sell something like this at your own auction:
To honor the man who is so cool and macho that he convinced Neil Patrick Harris that he is gay, let’s give him the same ceremony of awesomeness that we celebrated for Tom Selleck, as they certainly stand side-by-side in my Celebrity Facial Hair Hall of Fame. So let’s look back at Reynolds’ long, outstanding career now to rank his most amazing mustache moments.
No ‘stache Honorable Mentions: Riverboat (1960), Gunsmoke (1962), Hawk (1966), Dan August (1970), Deliverance (1972), White Lightning (1973), Striptease (1996)… It’s always hard for me to remember and believe that Reynolds sometimes didn’t have his famous facial hair.
20) Without a Paddle (2004)
A comic twist on one of his most iconic roles required a different look for the man famous for his mustache. You can throw an old beard on him and make him look like the porn parody version of Hagrid, but even the dirtiest, shaggiest and ugliest Reynolds mustache is better than the Average Joe’s peasant fluff.
19) Shamus (1973)
By all accounts, this was one of the first films (if not the first) that Reynolds sported a sweet ‘stache in, and he looked downright mean with it. It hadn’t yet been groomed and shaped to properly convey that Reynolds was not a man to be messed with, nor did it carry that raw power that told other men not to leave their women alone with him. No sir, that power had to be harnessed and controlled like Black Stallion.
18) City Heat (1984)
There’s just something about this look that isn’t right. The mustache seems uneven and weak, as if the film’s makeup and hair team kept trying to trim it and they were met with strong electric shocks. Also, Reynolds looks like Evil Dick Tracy in that outfit, and his presence is somehow even overpowered by Clint Eastwood, who was an equally macho leading man, despite his lack of a wonderful mustache. (Although Eastwood had several quality beards in his career.)
17) The Crew (2000)
Even in his life’s third act, Reynolds has kept his mustache game strong. Unfortunately, the ensemble comedy The Crew called for him to look like a man who had given up in his twilight years, and that meant that his peppery mustache had to be paired with a salty beard of stubble. Both Reynolds and his mustache had seen far better days and roles.
16) The Longest Yard (2005)
In the 1974 version of this football film, Reynolds’ Paul Crewe lacked a mustache. In the 2005 version that starred Adam Sandler as the former best quarterback in the world, Reynolds knew better than to leave us without a strong mustache if we were going to be subjected to a cross-dressing Tracy Morgan and an effeminate Kevin Nash in the most eye-rolling role of his career. Looking back on this remake, Reynolds should have opted for the full Yosemite Sam.
15) Sharky’s Machine (1981)
By ’81, Reynolds’ mustache was establishing itself as one of the best in show business, if not all of Hollywood. With each new role that had him playing a tough and/or wise guy, the mustaches got better and stronger, and Sharky is one of those characters that isn’t mentioned nearly enough because of previous roles like J.J. McClure, Bandit, Gator McKlusky and Sonny Hooper, among others. Put Sharky’s mustache on any mustache-free actor (or actress, for the feminists out there) and it’s a surefire No. 1.
14) The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (1973)
Once you get past the ridiculous title that has nothing to do with actual dancing cats, which is a shame, the story of Jay Grobart is a mean and brutal one. When you’re a man on the run from the law for murdering the man who killed the love of your life, you need to have a mustache (and even beard, if applicable) that tells the men hunting you that they’ve made a terrible mistake. However, it was also the kind of beard that allowed a man who had just lost the love of his life to fall in love with another woman. It was like Cupid’s arrow, except made of hair and it grew out of his face.
13) Rent-a-Cop (1987)
What an odd pairing this was. On one hand, you had an amazing Reynolds mustache. On the other hand, it was wasted on a movie that not only tried to make us believe that Liza Minnelli was a high-priced prostitute, but also that a man who looked like Tony Church would fall in love with her. Church’s mustache is the kind that belonged to a man whose heart could not be tamed. It connected directly to his brain and said, “No way, pal. This ‘stache needs to be free.”
12) Hooper (1978)
Not only did Reynolds have a hell of a mustache in Hooper, but listen to his infectious laugh that would eventually inspire Norm MacDonald’s beloved impression. How did Hollywood not stop and stare at this amazing power in the making? He already bared all on a bearskin rug for all the world to see, and now he had a spectacular mustache and dominant personality. A pop culture steamroller was born.
11) Semi-Tough (1977)
Forget the mustache, forget the film, forget the 1970s, and forget everything you think you knew about Burt Reynolds. Look at this movie poster for Semi-Tough…
Do you get it? They’re good at sex! Man, movie marketing used to be something, didn’t it? It was practically an art form. But you know what was a complete work of art? That mustache. Paired with Kris Kristofferson, it’s shocking that Semi-Tough wasn’t an Oscar goldmine in ’77.
10) B.L. Stryker (1989)
Earlier today, while manipulating all of my science and research to determine which of Reynolds’ mustaches is truly the best, I fell into a rabbit hole of old B.L. Stryker episodes on YouTube. Talk about a dramatic series that never got the respect that it deserved. It probably had something to do with Selleck’s Magnum P.I. already being television’s greatest mustachioed hero, but Magnum went off the air in ’88 and there’s always room for two iconic mustaches anyway. Regardless, we can pay Stryker the respect that it deserves today by acknowledging that it featured a Top 10 Reynolds ‘stache.
9) In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2007)
A terrible movie that had no business ever being made, at least by Uwe Boll, but was because of an inexplicably incredible cast of actors, and yet they somehow all turned in hilariously bad performances? Yes, there’s no debating that. But when you set aside the fact that it was a box office bomb because of horrendous production value, terrible acting by otherwise talented people (Matthew Lillard does not count, by the way), remarkably bad accents, and high school drama club direction by a man-child who somehow found the money to make two more of these films, Reynolds’ mustache and beard combo was outstanding.
8) Gator (1976)
What was remarkable about Gator McKlusky was that this character didn’t have a mustache in White Lightning but he had one in Gator. How amazing of an actor can one man be to pull that off? Name anyone who has ever done that before? You can’t*, because the conversation begins and ends with Burt Reynolds.
*Or maybe you can, my scientists went to lunch for this part.
7) The Cannonball Run (1981)
This is where we start to get into a heated range of debatable mustaches based on preferences of films. For example, The Cannonball Run is probably my favorite Reynolds film so if I were calling the shots on this ranking, J.J. McClure would be my No. 1 ‘stache. But science is calling the shots, so he’s back here at No. 7 with an incredibly small margin between 7 and 1. You could almost say it’s as thin as one of the hairs in his mustache. But you shouldn’t because that’s awful.
6) Cop and a Half (1993)
Another critically-loathed movie that Leonard Maltin compared to Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot? Yes. As terrible as In the Name of the King? Hahahahahahahahahahahaha, no. Seriously, Reynolds could have made 10 Cop and a Half movies and they would have all been better received than that fantasy flop. Anyway, look at that hair/mustache/sunglasses combination. That is INSANE. Men have tried for eons to master that kind of look and so few have ever perfected it like Reynolds.
5) Stroker Ace (1983)
This is a perfect example of how powerful one mustache can be. In a film that had Reynolds dressing in a full-body chicken suit, his mustache is still the first thing that people notice. Like, if instead of a racecar driver, he played a man who turns into some sort of were-chicken (I’d watch the f*ck out of that, by the way), I’d still look at that beast and say, “Damn, that monster has one hell of a mustache.”
4) Boogie Nights (1997)
Another universal favorite that could be No. 1 on so many other mustache rankings, people place this one on a pedestal because it was a once-in-a-career performance for Reynolds. What’s interesting is that Robin Williams had to go full wolfman for Good Will Hunting to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar that many fans believed that Reynolds rightfully deserved. Whether he won or not, what we learned from their nominations and performances in ’97 was that nothing is more important to an actor than his facial hair.
3) Archer (2012)
You might be outraged that an animated version of Reynolds’ mustache could be ranked over so many other deserving mustaches, but what you have to understand about Archer’s tribute is that it makes him immortal. Also, animation has the ability to create a mustache so close to perfect that it could never be achieved in what we know as reality. You’d have to pull off a move out of Tron to even begin trying, but once you have to compete for your life against digital villains, a mustache will be the last of your concerns.
2) Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
Casual yet powerful. Loose but macho. Most men would never try to find a common ground between professional and playful while sculpting their mustaches, but Reynolds has never been like most men. And when he took on the role of Bandit in this 70s classic, Reynolds showed the rest of the world that he was a mustache to be reckoned with. The Academy should have awarded a Best Mustache Oscar to Reynolds for Smokey and the Bandit, and then never awarded another statue again, because it was that good.
1) Evening Shade (1990)
Simply perfect. By the time that Reynolds accepted his Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Emmy for Evening Shade, he’d already enjoyed a career that most of his colleagues and peers would have killed for. But what they should have been truly envious of was that mustache. Look at it in all of its glory and maturity, as if it’s a great bird perched upon that man’s upper lip, surveying its kingdom of mere mortal men, looking at us before it whispers, “You can’t even comprehend the places I’ve tickled.”
A greater glory no man shall ever witness than that of Burt Reynolds’ mustache. Happy 79th birthday, Mr. Reynolds, may your mustache live on as a shining light for all of humanity to bask in.