Who says only people can be movie stars?
Are you going to watch Bullitt and not say that the 1968 Ford Mustang GT Fastback isn’t as much of a star as Steve McQueen?
The same goes for guns.
Sometimes it’s the movies that popularize the weapon, and sometimes it’s real life that lands the gun in a role.
Regardless, some guns just rise above others in film and media.
As such, we’ve gathered the most prolific and famous movie star guns and invite you to tour some of the most infamous Hollywood guns.
Movie Star Guns of Hollywood
1. Franchi SPAS-12
The Franchi SPAS-12 is easily one of the most recognizable firearms in the movie and video game world, and it’s an odd choice.
In real life, the SPAS-12 utilized a cool design that allowed it to swap between semi-auto and pump-action…but it wasn’t a great shotgun.
Weighing 10-pounds loaded, it was heavy compared to other shotguns. And the semi-auto action often failed, even with full power loads.
Reloading proved difficult because Franchi designed the carrier latch to double as the bolt release, requiring users to hold a button down to reload the gun.
In film and media, its aggressive appearance made it highly recognizable. It often stands out as a hero gun.
Look at the thing! It’s the epitome of style over substance.
The Terminator in Terminator steals one from a gun store, wielding it one-handed as he guns down police officers in his hunt for Sarah Connor.
Robert Muldoon hunted and was hunted by raptors in Jurassic Park while wielding a SPAS-12.
To add a hair of realism, the last time we see the SPAS-12, it’s jammed.
In Robocop 1, 2, and, sigh, 3, we see the SPAS-12 as the future’s shotgun of choice in the hands of police and thugs throughout the films.
2. Heckler & Koch G36
Barney Ross: “I’ve heard another rumor that you were bitten by a King Cobra?”
Booker: “Yeah, I was. But after five days of agonizing pain, the cobra died.”
Let’s say you’re directing a near-future film. It’s not far enough to use lasers, but AKs, M4s, and the like aren’t techy enough. You need it to cycle blanks and look cool.
What gun do you choose?
Well, according to Hollywood, you grab an HK G36 variant.
Various incarnations of the G36 have long been chosen as the gun of near-future soldiers, and anytime an elite commando unit pops into your action film.
The heavy use of polymer, carry handle, built-in optic, and general future-like appearance give the rifle that look.
In real life, the G36 and its many variants function as a rather controversial assault rifle — in use by the German Bundeswehr since 1996.
This magazine-fed, selective fire rifle chambers the 5.56 NATO round and feeds from a proprietary magazine.
Reportedly the Germans have discovered some issues with accuracy shifting when the gun gets extremely hot due to barrel shift in a polymer trunnion.
It might be slated for replacement with German military forces, but not future forces and commandos.
Films like Doom, Children of Men, Ghost of Mars, Terminator Salvation, and dozens more give future troops the stylish G36 in various configurations.
Don’t forget, when the Expendables are pinned down, a legendary super-soldier armed with a G36C saves the day.
Even Chuck Norris approves.
3. Desert Eagle
“The fact that you’ve got ‘Replica’ written down the side of your guns and the fact that I’ve got Desert Eagle point five O written on the side of mine…”
The Desert Eagle has a role in over 600 movies, video games, and television shows.
I can see why.
The pistol is so massive and distinguishable that it makes a perfect movie hero gun.
From heroes to villains to robots and vice cops, the Desert Eagle has been used by all.
It’s a hand cannon that gives your character a massive but distinctive weapon that catches the eye.
The Desert Eagle isn’t useful for much outside of a range toy or potential hunting pistol in real life.
A massive pistol chambered in .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, or .50 AE doesn’t make a good fighting gun.
The gas-operated action and rotating bolt make it unique from a design perspective, but that doesn’t translate to effectiveness.
In a defensive or tactical role, the big pistol is too big and heavy, recoils excessively, and possesses a relatively low capacity compared to something like a Glock 17.
That said, a Glock looks like a black brick. It has no style, no soul…but the Desert Eagle stands out.
This gun captures the camera, and when you see it, you know exactly what it is.
Most gun nuts are likely sick of seeing the ole Deagle in movies and TV, but you can’t deny the style and distinctive appearance of the gun.
Check out our review on the Desert Eagle.
4. Smith & Wesson Model 29
“I know what you’re thinking. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you better ask yourself one question…’Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?”
The S&W Model 29 is the premier .44 Magnum revolver.
While most people might know it from Dirty Harry, it had a long career in film and media before Clint Eastwood wielded it.
Lee Marvin, both a real-life badass and a movie badass, wielded the gun in the film Point Blank.
Point Blank had several quasi remakes, including the Hong Kong action flick Full Contact and Mel Gibson’s Payback.
Both films see the S&W Model 29 in action. Tack on its use in the Road Warrior, Lone Wolf McQuade, and Sin City…we see a pattern.
In movies, the Model 29 is the go-to revolver for the guy who prefers power.
When a Model 29 appears on screen, we know the gun will bark and deal real damage.
In real life, the Model 29 is a finely made revolver chambering the .44 Magnum cartridge. It’s no fighting handgun and is best used for predator defense, hunting, and at the range.
Like most things with magnum in the name, it has some recoil and some heft to it.
It’s far from a practical fighting pistol, but it brings style and class compared to your brickish automatic.
Do you feel lucky…or rather do you like the Model 29? If so, give it a rating below.
5. AK 47
“AK-47, the very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every mo*******r in the room, accept no substitutes.”
The AK-47 is just as popular in media as it is in real life. I could’ve picked a dozen different quotes from films like Lord of War or Inside Man to describe the weapon.
Do you need to arm criminals? Guerillas? Practically any foreign military? Freedom fighting militias?
Well, then the AK-47 is for you!
It’s an instantly recognizable rifle often associated with terrorists, criminals, and enemies of America. But that association isn’t exactly inaccurate.
Soviets spread AKs across the world, and dozens of different countries have produced the AK-47. So, it makes sense that bad guys get their hands on AK-47s more so than other rifles.
When making Lord of War, the director and producers found it was cheaper to buy real AKs than replicas.
In media, the AK-47s are always easy to spot thanks to the distinctive curved magazine, wood furniture, and unique controls.
AK nerds make it a hobby to try and guess where the AK was produced when they pop up in movies using small distinctions like the hood of a front sight.
AK-47 rifles have a reputation for reliability and ease of handling.
While ergonomically, they are stuck in the 1940s, they still prove very capable.
Narrow down which AK-47 is right for you in our Complete AK-47 Buyer’s Guide.
The AR-15 and its spawn (M4, M16, MK18, Mk12, etc.) maintain a healthy number of appearances in film and TV.
It’s the professional’s weapon seen in the hands of soldiers, police officers, and also higher-end criminal and bad guy elements.
In real life, the AR-15 family serves numerous countries and police forces, coming in all sizes and configurations.
The rifle’s customizable nature makes it a popular choice. It can be dressed up for a film and also serve as an assault rifle, SMG-sized carbine, sniper rifle, or whatever else a filmmaker wants it to be.
We’ve seen it accessorized in movies like the Expendables and Miami Vice with all the tactical doodads to make it high speed for the heroes.
In Heat, we see period-appropriate AR variants wielded by professional bank robbers.
Heck, the customizable design allows the rifle to be dolled up in a futuristic warfighting rifle like in the recent Tomorrow War.
We even see the AR platform serving as the base gun for the Rebel Alliance in Star Wars Rogue One.
The AR-15 can be anything a filmmaker needs, so they’re a versatile movie star.
We have the details on the Best AR-15 Rifles here!
7. Beretta 92 Series
“A really big gun that holds a lot of bullets…”
In the 1980s and 1990s, Beretta was riding high.
The Beretta M9 was chosen as the United States military’s sidearm of choice. That same 92 series joined dozens of police forces, including the LAPD.
But let’s not forget its starring role in the biggest movies of the time — Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Kuffs, The Killer all prominently featured the weapon.
It graced movie covers and posters and became the gun of the time.
The Beretta 92 kickstarted the wonder nine-category of firearms, becoming a part of American culture.
This spaghetti blaster offered a semi-automatic action and an unheard-of 15-round capacity.
It had everything a police or soldier count want, and it just so happened to have that one thing that made it a movie star…a unique style.
Beretta’s open slide, slightly protruding barrel, and external hammer give the gun an unmistakable aesthetic.
It’s not a brick of blued steel, but a classy Italian firearm that looked as good as it performed.
To this day, we see it in movies like Tenet, Hobbs and Shaw, and Sicario.
It’s not a gun that will leave our collective conscious soon.
8. Thompson SMG
“One-man, hand-held machine gun…”
No gangster flick or war movie is complete without a Thompson SMG.
In fact, gangster movies of the ‘30s made it seem like every thug had one. In reality, only a select few ever used them.
The Tommy gun pops up in every genre, from Laurel and Hardy comedies to painfully accurate period pieces like Dillinger.
Used by bad guys and good guys, gangsters sling lead with abandon in their films, but in war films, we see heroes defeating the Nazi menace with it.
Sonny Corleone bit the big one due to Tommy guns, and Lt. Lynn “Buck” Compton of Easy Company laid down the hate until he ran dry against Nazi forces.
The Thompson submachine gun is another part of American culture, and as such, it’s become an icon in film.
In real life, it was a heavy and bulky gun weighing more than most AR-15s these days.
However, for the time, it was quite effective, reliable, and well made. No man carrying a Thompson would be outgunned easily.
9. Three Bad Guy Machine Pistols
As I wrap this up, I wanted to include a goon gun.
Do you know those lovable bad guys that are cannon fodder for the main hero? If you watch any type of action movie, you know who I’m talking about…and you know their firearm of choice.
It’s usually a machine pistol-ish type of weapon.
I couldn’t pick just one, so you get three.
The Micro Uzi, MAC SMGs, and TEC-9 are all popular goon guns.
Like the Thompson, film, and media (combined with a half dozen criminals) convinced the world these were bad guy guns.
In reality, all are rather large, hard to conceal, and tough to control on full-auto…hardly the choice of criminals.
But these three guns have going for them is an unmistakable scary gun look.
These brothers from other mothers feature long magazines, scary muzzle attachments, and of course, are always fully automatic.
The TEC-9 armed various henchmen in Robocop, Bad Boys, and S.W.A.T. Its distinctive handguard and magazine forward of the pistol grip give it that gang banger appeal.
Micro Uzi’s get love in We Own the Night, the Crank films, Bad Boys 2, S.W.A.T., and dozens of other appearances.
MACs pop up in bad guys’ hands in Robocop, Boyz N the Hood, and True Lies.
All that said, good guys occasionally use these guns too.
Chuck Norris dual-wielded Micro UZIs. Snake Plisken loved his MAC, as did Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China.
Movies propel guns to stardom in a very real way. Films, like video games, can be an effective introduction to firearms.
Who doesn’t love a good gun flick? Movies like John Wick, Die Hard, etc., introduce regular people to real guns, generating interest. And that’s good for everyone.