It’s the ultimate female dream: a masculine guy with a heart of gold. The bruiser with a soft side hits all of our feels. It’s a way for us to have our cake and eat it, too. It also leads to a more well-rounded character than a straight-up manly man or a good guy. It’s a way to stretch the confines of gender binaries in a socially acceptable way. Like our personalized wrist watches, they show their strength to the world while keeping their sentiment tucked away, only to come out when it really matters. If that’s your favorite kind of character, then you’ll love this list of the Top 10 Manly Characters with a Soft Side.
Ralph from Wreck-It Ralph
Wreck-It Ralph’s premise is that Ralph, a bruiser whose entire job is to destroy buildings, wants to be a hero for once. Though it seems as if he can’t help but destroy everything in his path, as the movie continues we get to know more and more about his gentle side. His friendship with Vanellope Von Schweetz is nothing short of adorable, and by the end of the movie, it’s clear that heroes can come in all shapes and sizes.
Ka D’Argo from Farscape
When Farscape begins, Ka D’Argo looks like the epitome of a tough guy. He’s an escaped convict who was put away for murdering his wife. Huge, angry, and from a warrior race known as Luxans, D’Argo is an intimidating sort of man at the show’s start. Only as the show goes on do you realize that he has a heart of gold—that his conviction was based on a lie and that his mission in life is to be reconnected with his son, Jothee.
Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly
Firefly is basically a gritty western in space. Malcolm, the captain of his ship, is an ex-sergeant who fought on the losing side of a war. He tends to keep everyone at arm’s length, but his soft side comes out when, for example, he can’t bring himself to give a brother-sister duo up to authorities, even when it puts him in harm’s way. Though occasionally reckless, Malcolm is exactly the sort of captain you’d want to have leading your ship. He gets things done, and he cares about his crew while doing it.
Zoro from One Piece
Master of the three-sword technique, Zoro looks like a hardened pirate-hunter on first sight. When we first meet him, he’s tied up in the middle of an island, having gotten himself on the wrong side of the local marines. But as we get to know his character further, we learn that he got himself on the wrong side of the marines by defending a young girl and her mother. And the entire reason he mastered a three-sword fighting technique and dedicated his life to fighting is to honor the memory of a dear friend. If that’s not a soft side, we don’t know what is.
Luke Danes from Gilmore Girls
One of the first things Luke Danes says on Gilmore Girls, as he drops two burgers on a table, is, “Red meat can kill you. Enjoy.” A gruff master of the monosyllable, Luke is everything we think of when we consider the modern manly man. He’s strong, he’s closed-off, and he knows how to use tools. But he also blew up balloons and made a coffee cake for Rory’s sixteenth birthday. He dotes Rory, and, later, his daughter April, and he’s completely, madly in love with Lorelai. It’s the kind of love that we all dream of, and watching him on screen is like watching our dreams take human form.
Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones is filled with all sorts of characters, including tons of characters who push against cultural norms, which made it hard to choose just one manly man with a soft side from this series. In the end, however, we chose Jaime. The heir of the Lannister family, Jaime has trained his entire life to be a manly-man. He’s a master swordsman, putting the family name and honor above all else. And when he pushes Bran from a window in the first season, it’s hard to consider that he might have a softer side. But as the show continues, we learn more about Jaime—like the fact that he’s the only person in the family to ever have Tyrion’s back or the fact that he has a complete soft spot for his sister and, later, Brienne of Tarth.
Grunkle Stan from Gravity Falls
At first glance, Gravity Falls looks like a typical kids’ television program about two kids running amok during the summer while their guardian looks the other way. But their great-uncle “Grunkle Stan” is more than just a crotchety old man with little regard for what Mabel and Dipper are up to. As the series continues, we learn that he not only has a heart of gold, but that he’s been staying in the same location and running his shop for so many years because he’s been desperately trying to get his twin brother back from a different dimension.
Hagrid from Harry Potter
Hagrid from Harry Potter is a half-giant: a huge, lumbering man with no concept of how tall he is. In fact, despite his intimidating appearance, Hagrid is really more soft-side than anything else. He’s completely devoted to the Golden Trio, and he can’t stand to see an animal be hurt. He even tries to tame his half-brother, Grawp, and teach him a more humane way of dealing with people, though his success in that endeavor is somewhat limited.
Joel from The Last of Us
The Last of Us starts off with one of the saddest sequences known to gamers: the scene where Joel’s teenage daughter is killed by zombies. We cry every time we watch it, and not in a cute way—we’re talking snot-dripping-down-your-face crying. The game itself, which takes place years later, shows us a grizzled Joel who has become ever more jaded and hard-hearted over the years. But as the game continues, his frozen heart begins to thaw in the presence of Ellie, and by the end of the game, we’re well-acquainted not just with Joel’s ability to slaughter zombies but also with the soft heart that lies beneath that hard exterior.
Goliath from Gargoyles
Goliath can literally rip buildings apart with his bare hands. When Gargoyles starts, he comes off as a dark, rage-filled monster. In truth, we learn that he’s grieving the loss of his long-term mate, his clan, and his offspring. As the series continues, we learn that he’s a “man” of principles, closely devoted to his friends and desperate to do the right thing.
There’s no shortage of gentle men on TV nowadays. But as with any character type, there are those who pull it off well and those who flounder. These 10 gentle-hearted manly men are some of our favorites—the perfect exemplars of their type.