Archery in movies, TV shows, and other popular media is nothing new. It’s such a dynamic, badass-looking sport that it just begs to be featured in action media everywhere. But compound bows haven’t been around for so long, so what do we know about their appearance in major movies?
Most of us have been in the archery community for a long time. Maybe we started off being inspired by book characters or videogame sequences (hint, Lord of the Rings), or simply because someone older and cooler was doing it and taught us.
Today’s bowhunting and archery aspirational idols are still rocking Hollywood with their tough guy vibes. But they’re more tech than ever: there’s an increasingly bigger set of movies with characters shooting the latest archery developments, compound bows, and pairing them with a whole array of avant-garde accessories.
Let’s take a look at some of the coolest, most emblematic moments of compound bows in movies. What did they do right? What went horrifically wrong? And, most importantly, is it badass enough?
5. Elektra in Elektra (2005)
One of the most recognisable movie heroes with compound bows is Elektra, played by actress Jennifer Garner. While this character typically fights in a more direct body-to-body martial arts style, she can also handle a bow and arrows.
In this scene, though, as Elektra gets ready to ‘terminate’ her mark as a contract killer, she doesn’t fire a single shot. We love this moment, though— the cold assassin hesitates out of friendship, and we see her draw the compound bow perfectly several times.
4. Lucy Liu’s Drive-and-shoot Technique in Charlie’s Angels (2000)
In this classic female-led action movie, there are a lot of bad guys. And the heroines are, for the most part, contractually obliged to go looking after them. It’s in one of those moments that Lucy Liu’s character presents us with one of the most (in)famous compound bow scenes.
While the three Angels are chasing after the villains in their way-too-speedy vehicle, Alex Munday (Liu’s character) shoots a compound bow to reach a helicopter. The only issue? She doesn’t draw the bow open! In the blooper reel of the movie, you can see how the arrow doesn’t even leave the bow.
But special effects and super badass female leads are awesome, so we’ll forgive Charlie’s Angels the slight offense.
3. Hawkeye in Thor (2011)
This Marvel character, real name Clinton Francis Barton, is first shown in the 2011 movie Thor. While he’ll join the heroes in later films, here he appears as a bit of a side figure, a minion of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Known as the best shot on the planet, he shows up grabbing his war-like compound bow and propping himself up on a crane, of all things. While he does not let any arrow loose in this scene, fans have noticed a mistake in another one: he tends to forget to place his arrow on his bow’s rest. How the mighty have fallen!
2. Luke Duke’s Exploding Moment in the Dukes of Hazzard (2005)
A much more lighthearted character than the intense Hawkeye, Luke Duke still shares the hero’s love for a good compound bow. In a famous scene, after failing to deliver some moonshine, the Dukes are seen at the archery range. After they get scolded for being such horrible businessmen, Luke unexpectedly fires an arrow at the target and sets it ablaze. While screaming ‘Boom Shakalaka!’. Iconic.
1. Rambo’s Classic Hot Shot (1985)
It’s likely that the most emblematic and trailblazing moment for compound bows in movie history takes place in one of the classic Rambo films. Of course, Rambo is a badass in every scene and can wield a vast array of weapons with ridiculous expertise.
But, in the exploding arrow scene of 1985 Rambo: First Blood, Part II, this awesome martial character really shines through. Under attack by an enemy (who is seriously bad at aiming a handgun, by the way), Rambo doesn’t bat an eyelash. He just breathes in, selects an arrow, notches it… and proceeds to quite literally shoot his target into smithereens (please, please don’t try this at home!).
After this little journey through the Compound Bows in Movies Hall of Fame, you’re probably getting antsy for some shooting practice of your own. We get it. It’s hard not to be inspired by action scenes packed with suspense, dramatic music, and exploding arrows…
So go get your gear, head out to the range, and go hone your archery skills. Just try to avoid setting anything on fire!